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Fasting Day 11: Persisting in Secret Prayer

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How much did you pray this morning? How much do you tarry before the throne of God every day?

This is the fifth year I’ve led Pursuit 21 … and never in these years has God laid a burden on my heart to emphasize prayer like He has this year. I don’t claim to know all of His reasons, but I do know this one: He wants us to emerge from this fast as men and women of prayer. As men and women who no longer abandon secret prayer.

“One can believe intellectually in the efficacy of prayer
and never do any praying.” ~ Catherine Marshall
(Tweet this)

In The Cinderella of the Church Today, I wrote:

Our enemy, the devil, pulls out a new trick each day in order to keep us from prayer. Often we succumb without the least bit of resistance or discernment as to what is taking place. Most days he doesn’t even have to find a new trick. The same one he used yesterday still works to keep us from praying today.

Beloved, when was the last time you spent thirty minutes in prayer? When was the last time you spent thirty minutes watching TV? The place and priority of prayer in our lives is quickly established. (Tweet this) I pray continually throughout the day, as I’m sure you do as well, but this is no excuse for not setting apart time just for prayer. God will not do for us what He would not do for Jesus – exempt us from the need to pray!

If our Redeemer — the One who spoke this world into place, the Lion of Judah, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world — found prayer necessary in God’s economy, then who are we to try to live by any other standard? Who are we to think that we can attempt to live without it?

Prayer is one of the most noted characteristics of Jesus’ life. (Tweet this) It marked His beginning: At His baptism, it was “while He prayed” that “heaven opened” and the Holy Spirit descended (Lu.3:21-22). Prayer was a constant throughout His ministry as He often withdrew to the wilderness or to a solitary place to pray … even spending all night in prayer on the mountainside (Lu. 6:12). Prayer marked the end as well: As He took His final breaths in flesh, Jesus continued praying (Mt. 27:46; Lu 23:34,36).

“You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so,” Jesus said in John 13. “That is what I am … I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it — and live a blessed life.”

Jesus urges us just as He urged His disciples: always pray and never lose heart! “Cry out day and night to God!” (Luke 18:7)

Does prayer mark your life like it did Jesus’ life? Or does the lack of prayer in your life betray a deep-seated presumption that God will exempt you from the need for prayer? When was the last time you tarried, lingered, labored, and persevered in prayer?

If we were to be completely honest, we would all probably admit that prayer doesn’t mark our lives like it did Jesus’. Not only that, it probably didn’t even mark our day yesterday — even though we’re supposedly engaged in “fasting and prayer.

Prayerlessness is More Than Mere Neglect

Prayerlessness is a sin. It is not neglect, or lack of spiritual appetite, or mere boredom. (Tweet this) Prayer is not extra obedience for which you obtain bonus points if you follow through, but for which there will be no judgment or consequences if you fail to exercise. In 1 Samuel, God calls prayerlessness sin:

“God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you” (1 Samuel 12:23).

God commanded that men ought always to pray and faint not. God says, “Ask of me.” Therefore, to be prayerless is to fail God. Prayerlessness is sin. (Tweet this)

Personal Conviction

I’m not excluded from the conviction of the Holy Spirit in this area. My secret prayer life has been woefully deficient. I’ve ached to have it return to me. I used to know what it was to wait on the Lord hours each day. Twists and turns and difficulties with my health in recent months have drained every ounce of drive I used to have … including my drive for prayer. Oh I’ve prayed … but I’ve not tarried. Not all night. Not all morning. On occasion, maybe. But not daily. In other words, I’m walking this journey with you. Flawed like you. Hearing God’s rebuke like you. Convicted like you. Repentant … and returning to Him like you.

So Beloved, if the Holy Spirit is speaking to your heart, know that you’re not alone. We all need the Spirit of God to stoke the fire on the altar of our heart. We all need Him to revive us — and revival begins with repentance. With exposure of our sin. With returning to God.

Stoking the Fire

“The tendency of fire is to go out; watch the fire on the altar of your heart. Anyone who has tended a fireplace fire knows that it needs to be stirred up occasionally.”

~ William Booth

Are you convicted about your prayerlessness? Perhaps your fire for God has grown cold. Perhaps you used to be a man or woman of prayer, but your discipline in prayer has waned. Through fasting, you are allowing God to stoke the fire on the altar of your heart.

I urge you not to become satisfied with the stirring God has done to this point and limit Him as far as how much He’s allowed to shake up the coals of your spiritual fire. Don’t walk away and say, “Wow God, that’s great! You’ve really shown me some sin and spiritual coldness in my life. This fasting thing was worth it. You’ve done more than I expected!  We’ve done great work here together. But I need a break now. I’m done for a while. It’s time for me to watch TV. I’ll follow through and make time for prayer another day.”

I doubt many of us would be feeling the conviction we’re feeling about our sin of prayerlessness if we weren’t fasting. Most of us (myself included) would be allowing so many other things to dull our sensitivity to the life of Christ within us. But in fasting, we’re eradicating the two barriers to the Spirit of Christ erected by our carnal nature — the stubborn self-will of the soul and the self-gratifying appetites of the body.

Now that God has really begun convicting us, let’s not decide that we’ll subject our carnal nature only so far. Let’s not conclude that He can convict our heart but He can’t have our schedule. That our day’s agenda is off limits. That giving Him our food is okay, but our time? No. We’ll keep that.

Let’s let God bring everything in our lives into subjection to His Spirit. Everything.

Future Emphasis

If you’re like me, one day’s emphasis on prayer is not enough. You need more. God certainly feels I need more because He is having me revisit sermons on prayer. Not any ol’ dead, lifeless sermon. No! He is taking me to messages with the Holy Spirit’s power and conviction on them.

For the next few days, I will be posting sermons about prayer.  On some days, I will publish two posts a day, one post being a mini-post containing a video message on prayer. Or if I publish only one post, I will simply include the sermon video alongside the worship video in the bottom of a the post. In the next few days, the posts may not all be solely about prayer, but I will share a sermon on prayer with you each day.

I realize your schedule may not permit you to listen to a full-length sermon in one sitting. Divide it up, if you need to. Listen to part of it on your way to work and part of it on your way  home.  The Lord will help you find times that you can listen. It will be well worth it! Especially for the message below today.

The following sermon is the one I referred to in yesterday’s post: Importunity in Prayer, Part 1 by Paul Washer. Paul is speaking to a group of ministers, but the message is applicable to all of us, no matter our vocation.

Importunity in Prayer, Part 1 by Paul Washer


 

E.M. Bounds on Persisting in Prayer

In The Necessity of Prayer, E.M. Bounds writes the following about importunate praying:

“He prays not at all, who does not press his plea. Cold prayers have no claim on heaven, and no hearing in the courts above. (Tweet thisFire is the life of prayer, and heaven is reached by flaming importunity rising in an ascending scale.

“[In] the case of the importunate widow, we see that her widowhood, her friendlessness, and her weakness counted for nothing with the unjust judge. Importunity was everything.

“In these parables of importunate praying, our Lord sets forth, for our information and encouragement, the serious difficulties which stand in the way of prayer. At the same time he teaches that importunity conquers all untoward circumstances and gets to itself a victory over a whole host of hindrances. He teaches, moreover, that an answer to prayer is conditional upon the amount of faith that goes to the petition. To test this, he delays the answer. The superficial prayer subsides into silence, when the answer is delayed. But the man of prayer hangs on, and on. The Lord recognizes and honors his faith, and gives him a rich and abundant answer to his faith-evidencing, importunate prayer.”

~ E.M. Bounds, The Necessity of Prayer

Tweetables

  • One can believe intellectually in the efficacy of prayer and never do any praying. ~ Catherine Marshall > Tweet
  • The priority of prayer is quickly established: Can you spend 30 mins watching TV but not in prayer? > Tweet
  • Prayer is one of the most noted characteristics of Jesus’ life. He found it necessary. So should we. > Tweet
  • Prayerlessness is a sin. 1 Sam. 12:23. It’s not neglect or mere boredom. #prayer > Tweet
  • God commanded that men ought always to pray & faint not. God says, “Ask of me.” So to be prayerless is to fail God. > Tweet
  • He prays not at all who does not press his plea. Cold prayers have no claim on heaven. ~ EM Bounds > Tweet

A Moment of Worship: Draw Me Close / Agnus Dei

Draw Me Close / Agnus Dei by Jesus Culture

Bible Reading: James 4:2b; Luke 18:1-8; Hebrews 11:1, 6

Focus Questions:

  • How much did you pray this morning?
  • How much do you tarry before the throne of God every day?
  • How much do you persevere in asking God?
  • Do you truly believe He rewards those who seek Him?

 

FROM THE ARCHIVES:

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