After midnight and just before going to bed I often read T. Austin Sparks’ daily devotional. Sometimes his words strike me so that I need to copy and paste them, knowing that might turn out another blog article, although I rarely know what I am going to write about in detail. From my own experiences, I can confirm that these days when I am hindered through people, pain or problems to spend more time alone with God than usual (i.e., two or three times a day), my mental condition is not the best. I am more vulnerable, impatient, more easily discouraged and I am easily stressed out as well. Also, it is more difficult for me to discern God’s voice from others AND to finally obey His leading, too.
Before starting my day in the morning I stay in bed in order to pray, keeping my eyes closed, talking with God and/or Jesus in my spirit. Just for clarification, it depends on Who is ‘available’, that is, Whom I am able to perceive. At times it is only one of them, sometimes it is Daddy and Jesus. Sometimes God is immediately there, sometimes I need to wait since He is Lord (not me), which can be pretty difficult because our thought life normally revolves around how to set our daily agenda. Once we have been caught up in our plans and thoughts about the ‘whos’ and ‘hows’ and ‘whens’, it is very difficult, though not impossible, to focus our eyes of the heart on God again. In fact, He is so eager to share HIS plans and ideas with us while we tend to tell Him our plans and hope He might like them more. 😉 I do know when I have prayed and can get up while staying His presence, my day will be more heavenly since adverse circumstances do not touch me that deeply. Quite the contrary if I could not pray! These days where I cannot immediately start with God are always full of struggles because the voice of the flesh is much louder than the Holy Spirit’s small and still ‘nudges’ from the inside. Instead of telling you more about my own prayer life and its implications here, I would suggest to read TAS devotional first.
In the morning, long before sunrise, Jesus went to a place where He could be alone to pray. (Mark 1:35 GW)
I am quite sure that I have the agreement of most of the Lord’s people when I say that one of the most difficult things, if not the most difficult thing, is to be able to get to prayer and give ourselves to prayer. When we contemplate prayer, we meet a host of unsuspected and unforeseen difficulties which suddenly rise up as ambush forces breaking out upon us. Anything to prevent prayer! I am not saying something that you do not know, but I am saying it in order that you may recognize it clearly, definitely and deliberately, and face the fact that it is not just ordinary circumstances, but a designed, well-laid scheme of the enemy to prevent prayer. The enemy, instead of objecting, will promote occupation with a thousand and one things for the Lord if thereby he can crowd out prayer. He does not mind how busy we are in the Lord’s work, nor how often we are found preaching, conducting meetings, and doing the many-sided work of the Lord, as we may call it. He knows quite well that all the work for the Lord which is not founded upon triumphant spiritual prayer will count for little or nothing in the long run and will break down. I say that he does not mind you working. Work for the Lord as hard as you can, but if you leave out prayer you will not accomplish very much. One of the subtleties of the enemy is to get us so busy, so occupied, so much on the go and on the rush with – as we think – things for the Lord and the work of the Lord, that our prayer is cramped and pushed up into a corner and limited, if not almost entirely ruled out; and the Lord will never accept the excuse: “Lord, I am too much engaged in Your interests to pray.” The Lord never favors an attitude like that….
Immediately you begin to contemplate or purpose a fuller prayer-life, the enemy launches a new scheme for keeping you more busy and occupied, heaping up the work and crowding in demands so that you will have no time or opportunity for prayer…. But we must recognize this: that the enemy will construct his best arguments about responsibility, duty and conscience to stop us praying, and there is a place where, if we see prayer is utterly ruled out, or brought down to such a limited place that it is completely inadequate for a life of spiritual ascendancy and victory, we have to say: “Lord, I am going to trust the responsibility with You while I pray, that You will not allow my breaking away for this time to have detrimental results, and that You will protect this prayer-time – which I seek for Your glory – from the inroads of the enemy.”
Just today I realized that it is no real problem to discern the Christian who is used to praying from the one who is not used to praying. Even as I checked out a blog I had not visited for a long time, I saw that nothing had changed there. After only reading a few lines, I felt so uneasy that I left this blog quickly. Indeed, people can merely speak and write from their old unredeemed heart if they are not used to expose their inner darkness to His light. They keep dwelling on their past and the wounds they received, they keep looking at their sins or the sins of others, and most of the times they cannot see that they live in a PRISON of negativity although Jesus really came to set the captives free! These believers remain unchanged and cannot help but think and act in their old soulish ways. Dear reader, I believe this is not the way it should be. A Christian disciple who does not grow spiritually cannot follow our Lord’s voice if it is not heard daily. Or can you and I follow someone in the darkness when He alone has the light and we do not stick close to Him? Brothers and sisters, if we avoid knocking on heaven’s door and drop prayer because it can be boring at times until the Lord shows up (yes, these times do exist), we will be easily led astray by Satan and might eventually confuse his voice with God’s. I think you and I don’t want this, do we? Now I want to share a quote from my fellow countryman Martin Luther with you. He said,
As exaggerated as these words might seem at the first moment, they are true. Prayer makes all the difference between these believers who are like “children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (Eph 4:14 ESV) and those “who know their God […,] stand firm and take action.” (Dan 11:32 ESV) It is only the latter group that will be able to really do what God wants and to draw distinct boundaries between us and those worldly and evil spirits that continually try to pull us away from God (‘nice’ people, friends, family, and relatives included here). Actually, we could listen to countless sermons, memorize Bible verses, again and again, read all commentaries available, nonetheless, we might miss out on the most important thing: it is prayer alone that connects us to the heart of God!
If we do not pray, we have no real love relationship with Him. The Scripture from Daniel speaks about those people who KNOW their God. We cannot follow God’s leading and walk in these “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10 ESV) unless we have come to know God and His heart for us and others, too. Just allow me a comparison with marriage here. Imagine someone has a difficult spouse. In order to avoid confrontation, they keep writing one another short letters in which they describe what they did and what they were going to do instead of ever asking for one another’s advice by talking problems over and working through them.
Sometimes I think that we tend to hide ourselves from His all-knowing presence due to a wrong fear of an image of God on which we have projected our own negative experiences with man and the losses in our lives we have not accepted yet. If that is true, Satan has won the game as TAS so well stated in his devotional. Let us not stop asking God to help us pray, dear brothers and sisters, since we do not know how to really do it unless the Holy Spirit guides us (cf. Rom 8:26 ESV).
As I just finished this blog post and checked my Google inbox, I saw that Michael Clark posted a new blog article on the implications of having a loving relationship with God and with one another (read fellowship). It seems to me that we cannot get there without having become people of prayer before. I do hope you take the time and check out Michael’s very inspiring entry as well. If you like, see God’s Wonderful Expanding and Abounding Love.