The one who would succeed in the Christian life must lead a life of prayer. Very much of the failure in Christian living today, and in Christian work, results from neglect of prayer. Very few Christians spend as much time in prayer as they ought. The Apostle James told believers in his day that the secret of the poverty and powerlessness of their lives and service was neglect of prayer.
"You have not," says God through the Apostle James, "because you ask not."
So it is today. Why is it, many a Christian is asking, that I make such poor headway in my Christian life? Why do I have so little victory over sin? Why do I accomplish so little by my effort? and God answers, "You have not because you ask not."
It is easy enough to lead a life of prayer if one only sets about it. Set apart some time each day for prayer. The rule of David and Daniel is a good one; three times a day.
"Evening and morning and at noon," said David, "will I pray and cry aloud and He shall hear my voice" [Ps. 55:17].
Of Daniel we read, "Now when Daniel know that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber towards Jerusalem, he prayed, and gave thanks before God as he did aforetime" [Dan. 6:10].
Of course, one can pray while walking the street, or riding in the car, or sitting at his desk, and one should learn to lift his heart to God right in the busiest moments of his life, but we need set times of prayer, times when we go alone with God, shut the door and talk to our Father in the secret place [Matt. 6:6]. God is in the secret place and will meet with us there and listen to our petitions.
Prayer is a wonderful privilege. It is an audience with the King. It is talking to our Father. How strange it is that people should ask the question, "How much time ought I to spend in prayer?" When a subject is summoned to an audience with his king, he never asks, "How much time must I spend with the king?" His question is rather, "How much time will the king give me?" And with any true child of God who realizes what prayer really is, that it is an audience with the King of Kings, the question will never be, "How much time must I spend in prayer," but "How much time may I spend in prayer with a due regard to other duties and privileges?"
Begin the day with thanksgiving and prayer. Thanksgiving for the definite mercies of the past, prayer for the definite needs of the present day. Think of the temptations that you are likely to meet during the day; ask God to show you the temptations that you are likely to meet and get from God strength for victory over these temptations before the temptations come. The reason why many fail in the battle is because they wait until the hour of battle. The reason why others succeed is because they have gained their victory on their knees long before the battle came. Jesus conquered in the awful battles of Pilate's judgment hall and of the cross because He had the night before in prayer anticipated the battle and gained the victory before the struggle really came. He had told His disciples to do the same. He had told them "Pray that you enter not into temptation" [Luke 22:40]. but they had slept when they ought to have prayed, and when the hour of temptation came they fell. Anticipate your battles, fight them on your knees before temptation comes and you will always have victory. At the very outset of the day, get counsel and strength from God Himself for the duties of the day.
Never let the rush of business crowd out prayer. The more work that any day has to do, the more time must be spent in prayer in preparation for that work. You will not lose time by it, you will save time by it. Prayer in the greatest time saver known to man. The more the work crowds you the more time take for prayer.
Stop in the midst of the bustle and hurry and temptation of the day for thanksgiving and prayer. A few minutes spent alone with God at midday will go far to keep you calm in the midst of the worries and anxieties of modern life.
Close the day with thanksgiving and prayer. Review all the blessings of the day and thank God in detail for them. Nothing goes farther to increase faith in God and in His Word than a calm review at the close of each day of what God has done for you that day. Nothing goes further towards brining new and larger blessings from God than intelligent thanksgiving for blessings already granted.
The last thing you do each day, ask God to show you if there has been anything in the day that has been displeasing in His sight. Then wait quietly before God and give God an opportunity to speak to you. Listen. Do not be in a hurry. If God shows you anything in the day that had been displeasing in His sight, confess it fully and frankly as to a holy and loving Father. Believe that God forgives it all, for He says He does [1 John 1:9]. THus at the close of each day all your accounts with God will be straightened out. You can lie down and sleep in the glad consciousness that there is not a cloud between you and God. You can arise the next day to begin life anew with a clean balance sheet.
Do this and you can never backslide for more than twenty-four hours. It is very hard to straighten our accounts in business that have been allowed to get crooked through a prolonged period. No bank ever closes its business day until its balance is found to be absolutely correct. And no Christian should close a single day until his accounts with God for that day have been perfectly adjusted alone with Him.
There should be special prayer in special temptation - that is when we see the temptation approaching. If you possibly can, get at one alone somewhere with God and fight your battle out. Keep looking to God.
"Pray without ceasing" [1 Thess. 5:17].
It is not needful to be on your knees all the time but the heart should be on its knees all the time. We should be often on our knees or faces literally. This is a joyous life, free from worry and care.
"In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God, and the peace of God which passes all understanding shall guard your hearts and thoughts in Christ Jesus" [Phil. 4:6-7, R.V.].
There are three things for which one who would succeed in the Christian life must especially pray:
1. For wisdom. "If any of you lack wisdom [and we all do] let him ask of God" [James 1:5].
2. For strength. "For they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength" [Is. 40:31].
3. For the Holy Spirit. "Your heavenly Father shall give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him" [Luke 11:13].
Even if you have received the Holy Spirit, you should constantly pray for a new filling with the Holy Spirit and definitely expect to receive it. We need a new filling with the Spirit for every new emergency of Christian life and Christian service. The Apostle Peter was baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost [Acts 2:1-4] but he was filled anew in Acts 4:8 and Acts 4:31. There are many Christians in the world who once had a very definite baptism with the Holy Spirit and had great joy and were wonderfully used, but who have tried to go ever since in the power of that baptism received years ago, and to-day their lives are comparatively joyless and powerless. We need constantly to get new supplies of oil for our lamps. We get these new supplies of oil by asking for them.
It is not enough that we have our times of secret prayer to God alone with Him, we also need fellowship with others in prayer. If they have a prayer-meeting in your church attend it regularly. Attend it for your own sake; attend it for the sake of the church. If it is a prayer-meeting only in name and not in fact, use your influences quietly and constantly [not obtrusively] to make it a real prayer-meeting. Keep the prayer-meeting night sacredly for that purpose. Refuse all social engagements for that night.
A major-general in the United States army once took command of the forces in a new district. A reception was arranged for him for a certain night in the week. When he was informed of this public reception he replied that that was prayer-meeting night and everything else had to give way for prayer-meeting, that he could not attend the reception on that night. That genera had proved himself a man that can be depended upon. The Church of Christ in America owes more to him than to almost another officer in the American army. Ministers learn to depend upon their prayer-meeting members. The prayer-meeting is the most important meeting in the church.
If your church has no prayer-meeting, use your influence to have one. It does not take many members to make a good prayer-meeting. You can start with two but work for many.
It is well to have a little company of Christian friends with whom you are in real sympathy and with whom you meet regularly every week simply for prayer. There has been nothing of more importance in the development of my own spiritual life of recent years than a little prayer-meeting of less than a dozen friends who have met every Saturday night for years. We met and together waited upon God. If my life has been of any use to the Master, I attribute it largely to that prayer-meeting. Happy is the young Christian that has a little band of friends like that that meet together regularly for prayer.
Feed Yourself Assignments
These assignments assume the student has completed the Feed Yourself course.
1. Memorize Phil. 4:6-7.
2. Look up in your Bible each Scripture reference mentioned in this lesson - even the ones that are quoted.
3. Do a Devotional meditation on The Lord's Prayer.