In the Garden of Gethsemane the closest disciples of Jesus fell asleep when they were supposed to be praying. "Watch and pray," commanded Jesus, but three times he came back and found them slumbering.
If Peter, James and John couldn't hack it, what hope is there for you and me?
Why don't we pray? I have to admit that my prayer life is perfunctory; that I frequently get distracted and often fall asleep. Why is that?
First, it is because we are not really convinced that it is necessary. We take the view that God will run His universe without my help; that any advice I could give Him would be bound to be flawed; that we are beyond the shopping-list type of prayer of our childhood. In what sort of way could we change God's mind? Is God likely to re-order the world at our insistence? Is He not sovereign?
In this we are profoundly mistaken. Remember Abraham above Sodom. In a comical story reminiscent of Del Boy and Rodney (Google Only Fools and Horses if you don't get the reference) he beats God down to only 10 righteous men necessary to spare the city. Of course, God still destroys Sodom, but it demonstrates that He doesn't have a closed mind. Remember also James, "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."
The fact is that we cannot use our small minds to second guess God's will. The apparent conflict between God's sovereignty and human responsibility cannot be sorted out by us; the fact is that both are taught in the Bible and both are true. God's will will be done, but we are also commanded to pray. It seems that in some way God's will will only be done in the context of prayer.
Second, we are in a spiritual battle. "The devil trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees". Consequently, he puts every obstruction possible in our way.
It is our responsibility to play our part in this battle and not to be distracted. We are only strong in that we pray. We are puny foes for the devil when we stand unaided, but when we stand with God we are invincible. Remember the story of Elisha surrounded by the army of Aram and how he said to his servant, "Don't be afraid, those that are with us are more than those who are with them." And he asked the Lord to open his servant's eyes so that he could see the hills full of horses and chariots of fire.
Third, we make excuses. It is not my gift. I cannot pray in public. I am shy. I am afraid of making a fool of myself. I am sure to come out with some terrible heresy. Prayer is not a gift, it is a responsibility. Everyone can pray and it is not a competition.
Fourth, we are tired. Just as the disciples at Gethsemane were tired we often choose the most inopportune moments to pray. If I get into bed late at night and expect to be able to pray I am doomed to failure.
We miss out on so much when we do not pray, and we deny our friends and family God's blessing. If we do not pray for our family, who will? If we do not pray for our friends will anyone else? If we do not pray for our city, will it stand? If we do not pray for our country, no wonder our politicians get caught in sex scandals and financial scams; no wonder our television is so revolting; no wonder our kids go astray; no wonder our influence in the world is declining; no wonder abortions are burgeoning; no wonder so many families are falling apart; no wonder young men are killing each other on street corners; no wonder babies are born addicted to crack cocaine; no wonder our prisons are full.
Prayer is the lifeblood of the church. What is the church for? The church is there to pray. CH Spurgeon, the greatest preacher of the Nineteenth Century was asked the secret of his success. "My people pray for me," was his reply.
Pray for your leaders, pray for your church, pray for the sick, pray for those with responsibility for traffic, air traffic controllers, sewerage workers and garbage men, prison officers and policemen, those in the armed services, firemen, nurses, doctors, teachers, even lawyers. Pray for those in government, those in the House and Senate, those facing testing, those who are sinning; pray for thieves and murderers, adulterers and homosexuals; pray for the angry, the hurting, the betrayed and those who betray; pray for widows and orphans, pray for refugees, pray for the homeless; pray for those without work, those without funds, pray for the sick.
This is such important work, make it a priority. Make lists. And give thanks. Today I examined a flower in my garden. In several shades of pink my gladioli attract the bees, but there was no need for them to be beautiful too. God did it to please me. God made a wonderful world for me. He gave me all the food I need. He gave me an interesting life with much to fire my imagination. He gave me beauty to appreciate and wonderful music. But this was not enough. Knowing that I would rebel; knowing that I would disobey Him, He sent His son to die for me, to pay the price of my felonies so that I should not perish but have everlasting life. He sent His Spirit to awaken this dead soul and make me aware of Jesus and gave me all I need for salvation. Before you start praying, praise Him for His glorious majesty and thank Him for his magnificent grace.