April 22, 2014

Too busy to pray?

The work of intercession and the time it takes can be a barrier to prayer. However, yesterday’s newspaper had a column where experts answer questions about exercise. One person wrote that he wanted to train for a marathon but wondered how he would find the time. The answer said that for every hour of exercise, an hour is gained in other pursuits because the body has more energy and the mind works with greater clarity.

My resident Expert says the same thing is true for prayer. When I take my burdens to Him, He lifts the weight of them and gives renewed energy and clarity of thought. Things go better because prayer also has a calming effect. It is as Isaiah said, “The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.” (Isaiah 32:17)

The psalmist and the writer of Proverbs also knew this. One challenges God’s people to “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10) and the other offers God’s promise, “Whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” (Proverbs 1:33)

This is one reason God urges me to pray. When I come to Him, He gives assurance about everything that would otherwise distress or burden me. I don’t need to worry for He will take care of me. “I can calm and quiet my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” (Psalm 131:2)

Yet intercessory prayer is about far more that what it does for me. God “urges that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people” (1 Timothy 2:1) because all people need prayer. We are sinners, helpless and truly ignorant of what is going on in our own lives, never mind the lives of others. We need God to teach us to pray. We need Him to listen to our concerns. Otherwise, we often flounder in the stew of life with uncertainty playing havoc with our plans and schedules.

As I pray for others, God seldom gives me insight into what He is going to do, but He does give assurance: “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isaiah 46:9–10). In that confidence, my days amazingly seem longer . . .

But if I am not giving prayer the time I should, not taking all things to the Lord, then I am like the marathon hopeful. I look at prayer being more than I have time for and wind up frustrated because I have no divine help with a to-do list that somehow stretches much longer than the hours of each day.

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