Recently I’ve been reading a lot on prayer as I long to be more diligent in this area of my spiritual life. Today I came across this blog post by Tim Kerr that was very encouraging. I hope you find it just as encouraging.
The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. Prov 13:4
There is a point where holy longings stop being holy even when the things longed for are holy. That’s because genuine holy desires will eventually find concrete expression beyond mere mental processes. God’s “gospel longing” begotten in eternity did not remain a static thought of an infinite mind, but found expression in time and space. So it is with prayer.
I think most Christians want to pray. They want to pray more than they actually do. That longing is holy. Such longings count with God. But only for so long. Fresh bread is great out of the oven but grows moldy pretty quickly if not eaten. Its meant to be eaten, not watched, smelled and “longed for”.
If we always think about praying more “someday” but never put those longings to actual use, our longings quickly slip from something like fresh bread to being something moldy and inedible. When we get used to wanting and desiring what we never practice, we start a process of slow, almost imperceptible spiritual drift in our lives.
Proverbs 13:4 tells us that lazy people are not short on desires. But they are astonishingly deficient on delivery. Like the lesser known story of the two sons (Matt 21:30) the lazy person wills not to will. The desire to pray is real, but the desire not to pray is stronger and that desire wins. Like the man who wants to lose weight but also wants to eat the cherry cheesecake. Which desire will win? Usually the desire that requires no sacrifice in the moment.
So what’s to be done? It appears that something needs to enter the heart in the space between desire and action. I propose that the missing piece is faith. A particular kind of faith in which we believe something different from before. Something that believes that future reward is 10,000 times better than the present cost required for my obedience. This then requires yet another deeper level of faith—a faith that believes that God actually answers persistent prayer. This is most likely the real cause of the lazy persons non-prayer life. They just don’t believe it’s worth the effort. All pain no gain.
So where is this kind of faith to be found? Where do we “obtain” faith? Scriptures tell us that it’s the Christ-focused word that births faith—the “word of Christ”–another one of Paul’s code words for the gospel (Rom 10:17). In other words, we need Jesus and the power of His redemption to be able to pray. Desire to pray, even if that desire is strong, is not enough to produce the action of prayer and lift us heavenward. But adding the power of the gospel to our desires is like adding a lit match to kerosene. Cold liquid instantly becomes hot flaming gas!
The person lazy in prayer doesn’t lack subjective desires but objective gospel realities in the mix. They have never preached the gospel into their prayer life.
As Jesus said “apart from me you can do nothing”! (John 15:5)