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Don’t Get in a Hurry in the Prayer Closet

Don't Get in a Hurry in the Prayer Closet

If we want God to speak to us through His Word, we can not be in a hurry in the prayer closet.

In the previous post, we saw that prayer is a two-way conversation—not a time when we present a monologue to God. It’s a time of dialogue where we talk to God and He talks to us through His Word.

Hearing God often means lingering before Him and waiting to hear what He has to say.

Give God a Chance to Speak

What if a good friend were to start dominating all the conversations between the two of you. When you talk, she has no interest in what is happening in your life, in your likes or dislikes, your joys and sorrows. She only wants to talk about her life. You care about her, so you patiently listen … but she won’t even let you comment. You can’t get a word in edgewise.

After a while, would you not dread your conversations? You certainly wouldn’t be eager to tell her about your life or be vulnerable. Why would you? You know she doesn’t care. And besides, you don’t reveal things to people who aren’t interested — unless you’re incredibly narcissistic, like this friend.

If we want God to talk to us, we need to give Him time and the opportunity to get a word in edgewise. We need to be interested in what is on His heart.

A lot of times, we go to God in prayer with one thing on our mind… and when we pause and listen to Him, we realize He wants to speak to us about an entirely different subject.

For example, we might want to talk to Him about a need we want Him to meet. But when we sit quietly and let Him talk through His Word, we realize He wants to convict us of a certain sin. Then that should become our priority, too. Not only because it’s God’s priority. Although, that alone is enough. But also because that sin might be what’s hindering the answer to our prayer.

We need to give God a chance to talk to us in our devotions. But in order for that to happen, there is one thing we must remember.

Do Not Be in a Hurry

In order to hear God in prayer, we cannot be in a hurry.

How would you respond if you had something important—of great, life-changing significance—to tell someone, but before you could tell them, they quickly blurted, “I want to hear what you have to say, but make it quick. I don’t have time to listen”? You’d know they didn’t actually want to hear what you had to say.

This is what we do to God in our prayer life. Before He gets a word spoken—before He even inhales in order to speak the first word—we rudely indicate that He must hurry up. We have an internal timer set for two minutes. If He can’t get it said in that amount of time, we have no interest — even if it would be life-changing for us. We simply don’t care.

We cannot rush God and expect Him to talk.

“In the morning You hear my voice, O Lord; in the morning I prepare [a prayer, a sacrifice] for You and watch and wait [for You to speak to my heart]” (Psalm 5:3, AMPC).

We’re to talk to God (such as the three, scripture prayers here), then watch and wait for Him to speak to our hearts.

William Wilberforce said,

I must secure more time for private devotions. I have been living far too public for me. The shortening of private devotions starves the soul; it grows lean and faint. I have been keeping too late hours.1

Even William Wilberforce, the man who played a key role in abolishing the salve trade in the British Empire, tended to shorten his private devotions. You and I aren’t the only ones with this tendency. May we learn from his example.

Wilberforce had identified the reason his devotions were shortening—he was staying up too late. What is the reason why you’ve been shortening your time in prayer and the Word? Have you identified it? Whatever it is, are you willing to change it?

Hurried Devotions Make Weak Faith

In Power through Prayer, E.M. Bounds writes,

Our devotions are not measured by the clock, but time is of their essence. The ability to wait, and stay, and press, belongs essentially to our intercourse with God. Hurry, everywhere unseeming and damaging, is so to an alarming extent in the great business of communion with God. Short devotions are the bane of deep piety. Calmness, grasp, [and] strength, are never the companions of hurry. Short devotions deplete spiritual vigor, arrest spiritual progress, sap spiritual foundations, [and] blight the root and bloom of spiritual life. They are the prolific source of backsliding, the sure indication of a superficial piety; they deceive, blight, rot the seed, and impoverish the soil.

Even though we don’t measure the value of our prayers by the clock, by the length of time we pray, time is still of prayer’s essence. Why? Because the ability to wait and linger in God’s presence is essential to an experience of Him. Hurry is damaging everywhere, especially in the business of conversation with God.

Short prayer times with little waiting and listening are a sure indication of surface deep spirituality. They “deceive, rot the seed, and impoverish the soil.”

“But oh,” you might say, “the men in the Bible prayed short prayers, and they were mighty men of God.”

Bounds continues,

It is true that [in the] Bible, prayers in word and print are short, but the praying men of the Bible were with God through many a sweet and holy wrestling hour. They won by few words but long waiting. The prayers Moses records may be short, but Moses prayed to God with fastings and mighty cryings forty days and nights. …

Praying—true praying—costs an outlay of serious attention and of time, which flesh and blood do not relish.

Few persons are made of such strong fiber that they will make a costly outlay when surface work will pass as well in the market. We can habituate ourselves to our beggarly praying until it looks well to us: at least it keeps up a decent form and quiets conscience—the deadliest of opiates! We can slight our praying, and not realize the peril till the foundations are gone.

Hurried devotions make weak faith, feeble convictions, questionable piety. To be little with God is to be little for God. To cut short the praying makes the whole religious character short, scrimp, niggardly, and slovenly. It takes good time for the full flow of God into the spirit. Short devotions cut the pipe of God’s full flow. It takes time in the secret places to get the full revelation of God. Little time and hurry mar the picture.2

True praying requires such a serious investment of time and attention that our flesh has an aversion to it. We prefer a short time in the closet and mere surface spiritual work.

Have you become so accustomed to beggarly praying that now it seems okay to you? Do your short devotions make you feel like you’re not entirely prayerless, therefore easing your conscience—”the deadliest of opiates”? Have you slighted your time in the prayer closet for so long that your foundations are gone and you didn’t even realize it?

It takes time in prayer to get the full revelation of Himself that God wants to show us. When we cut our devotions short due to hurry, we miss what He wants to give us. Whatever we’re rushing to does not compare to seeing, experiencing, and being changed by God!

Don't Get in a Hurry in the Prayer Closet

As Bounds mentions, prayers in print in the Bible are short, but “the praying men of the Bible were with God through many a sweet and holy wrestling hour. They won by few words but long waiting.”

Jacob: An Example

Fearing an attack by his brother Esau, Jacob divided his people into two groups and devised a plan to appease Esau. That night as Jacob was alone, an angelic stranger attacked him and wrestled with him.

Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” (Genesis 32:25-26, ESV)

At some point in the wrestling match, Jacob realized he was in fact wrestling with God. This is clear by the last sentence above.

27[The Man] asked him, What is your name? And [in shock of realization, whispering] he said, Jacob [supplanter, schemer, trickster, swindler]!

28And He said, Your name shall be called no more Jacob [supplanter], but Israel [contender with God]; for you have contended and have power with God and with men and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:27-28, AMPC).

Although this is not technically an example of a morning devotion time, Jacob was in a conversation with God. It was a God-initiated conversation, but a conversation nonetheless. Prayer, as we saw yesterday, is a two-way conversation with God.

Bounds writes, “the praying men of the Bible were with God through many a sweet and holy wrestling hour.”

For Jacob, it was more than one holy wrestling hour. It was all night wrestling … until daybreak.

The point relative to this post is that Jacob was willing to wait, to linger, to cling to these moments with God. No matter what it cost him, no matter the pain, the sacrifice, the discomfort, he was not going to let God go until He blessed him!

In turn, not only was Jacob’s character completely changed from con man to prince, he saw God face to face!

“So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face’ (Genesis 32:30, emphasis added).

Our Jacob Moments in Prayer

We think that waiting on God in prayer is uncomfortable, boring even. It requires a sacrifice of time we don’t want to make. We don’t want to do without sleep or entertainment or getting an edge in our work. But it would be worth it if we would cling to God, no matter the cost, and not let Him go until He blessed us!

Something happened in the wrestling. Jacob was changed. Not only was his inner character changed, he became broken when God touched his hip socket.

This is what happens when we wait and cling to God in prayer. He touches us and affects deep elements of our lives. He puts sin out of joint. … Puts misaligned priorities out of joint. … Puts temporal mindedness out of joint. … Puts self-centeredness out of joint. … Puts disobedience out of joint. … Puts lukewarmness and spiritual deadness out of joint.

I wonder if this isn’t part of the reason communion with God takes time — because He has to prepare us first. He has to do a deep work in us before He can bless us as He’d like.

As I’ve mentioned so often during Pursuit 21 each year, fasting changes us, not God. So it is with our communion with Him. We are the ones who are changed.

Bounds writes, “Praying—true praying—costs an outlay of serious attention and of time, which flesh and blood do not relish.” The act of waiting on God in prayer, puts our flesh out of joint. Time spent waiting on God in prayer, humbly bowing low before Him,  forces the flesh to be subject to the Spirit. That’s one reason our human nature does not like it. Our natural man is prideful. It wants to be elevated above God, and be God. It craves other things, not time bowing low before the throne of God.

In order for us to be internally changed, as Jacob was—with God taking on our flesh as we take on His character and His holiness—we must wait in His presence in prayer.

“No man can expect to make progress in holiness
who is not often and long alone with God.”

— Andrew Murray

A Moment of Worship: Waiting Here For You

Here for You

Waiting Here for You feat. Christy Nockels
Written by Chris Tomolin, Jesse Reeves, Martin Smith
From the Album: Here For You
Listen on Apple Music | Buy on iTunes
Listen on Prime Music | Buy on Amazon

Bible Reading: Psalm 5:3; Genesis 32:24-30

Application Questions: 

  • When you pray, do you dominate the conversation? Do you give God a chance to speak to you through His Word?
  • Are you in a hurry when you pray? Do you watch and wait for God to speak to your heart, as Psalm 5:3 says? 
  • Why have you been shortening your time in prayer and the Word? Have you identified the reason? What will you do today to begin changing it?
  • Had it occurred to you that time is of prayer’s essence? Why do you think it is that waiting and lingering in God’s presence is essential to an experience of Him? 
  • Have you become so accustomed to beggarly praying that now it looks okay to you? Do your short devotions make you feel that at least you’re not entirely prayerless, easing your conscience—”the deadliest of opiates”?
  • Have you slighted the prayer closet for so long that your foundations are gone and you didn’t even realize it?
  • What are you willing to do to change this? Are you willing to get in the secret place with God and say, “I won’t let You go until You bless me? Until you touch the tender ‘hip socket’ of my pride, ambition, and disobedience? Until you take my deceiving, swindling nature and replace it with Yours? Until I see You face to face?” 
  • Hurry is damaging everywhere, alarmingly so in the great business of conversation with God. “To be little with God is to be little for God.”

TweetablesMore Tweetables

  • “Our devotions are not measured by the clock, but time is of their essence. The ability to wait, and stay, and press, belongs essentially to our intercourse with God.” — E.M. Bounds Click to tweet Tweet
  • “It is true that [in the] Bible, prayers in word and print are short, but the praying men of the Bible were with God through many a sweet and holy wrestling hour. They won by few words but long waiting. ” — E.M. Bounds Click to tweet Tweet
  • “Praying — true praying — costs an outlay of serious attention and of time, which flesh and blood do not relish.” ~ E.M. Bounds Click to tweet Tweet
  • “Hurry, everywhere unseeming and damaging, is so to an alarming extent in the great business of communion with God. ” — E.M. Bounds Click to tweet Tweet
  • “Hurried devotions make weak faith, feeble convictions, questionable piety. To be little with God is to be little for God.” — E.M. Bounds Click to tweet Tweet
  • “In the morning You hear my voice, O Lord; in the morning I prepare a prayer, a sacrifice for You and watch and wait for You to speak to my heart.” — Psalm 5:3 Click to tweet Tweet

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  1. E.M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer. In E.M. Bounds on Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008), 490
  2. Ibid., 489-490

E.M. Bounds on Prayer is a work containing eight books. The excerpts above were taken from the book Power Through Prayer. The entire compilation of eight books —E.M. Bounds on Prayer — is currently available as a Kindle ebook for just $1.50. It is an older version of the compilation and is called The Complete Works of EM Bounds on Prayer

 

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