Last week, while writing the first version of this blog, I received a phone call. The caller said I might not remember him. He said his name and told me he was a freshman in the church youth group where I volunteered at that time. I hadn’t seen him in more than three years, but I couldn’t forget him.
Every week, I drove more than 20 minutes from my house to his house and then another 20 minutes to church. After church, with one or two more kids in tow, I drove them home and then brought him home. If you think of a Y, I lived at the top of one end of the Y, I went to a church at the top of the other end of the Y, and he lived at the bottom of the Y. With the extra kids to drop off after the youth group, the round trip took close to two hours of driving.
At the youth group, the larger group split off into smaller groups. I sat with a small group of young men, they told me about their weeks, we did a Bible study, and we spent time in prayer. After a while, that young man stopped coming to the youth group.
Many years before I knew that young man, I went through an internship in another church. One of the requirements was that I and the one other intern arrive to the church by 7 AM and pray in the sanctuary for an hour. Every morning, we walked into the sanctuary, put on a worship CD, sat in silence on opposite sides of the sanctuary, and prayed.
The pastor took us through the book The Hour that Changes the World. It taught us to pray for an hour by devoting five minutes to various aspects of prayer. For instance, it taught to spend the first five minutes giving thanks to God, then five minutes in praise, then five minutes in intercession, and so on and so forth.
For several years after that internship, my prayer life went through ebbs and flows. Much of that time I had no prayer life other than praying over meals, at church, or in Bible studies. Sometimes, I went through seasons when I prayed more fervently. During those seasons, I prayed by using the principles of prayer I learned. Many times, school, work, something else caused me to get out of the habit of prayer.
Now, I practice the habit of prayer every morning. But, now, as I practice the habit of prayer, I am learning to develop a life of prayer. I believe when Paul told Timothy to “Pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:17),” he was telling him to develop a life of prayer by practicing the habit of prayer every morning. I believe there is a three-step method for developing a life of prayer, but that method takes a lifetime to perfect.
Developing a Life of Prayer
- Learn and develop a method of prayer
- Practice that method of prayer until it becomes a habit of prayer
- Practice that habit of prayer until it becomes a life of prayer
After I told the young man that I remembered him, he said he was not in a good place spiritually when I knew him. He said he got his life right with God, graduated valedictorian from his high school, and enlisted in the Marines. He told me he tried to pray and read the Bible everyday, but he admitted it wasn’t always easy.
I encouraged him to choose his principles, make God the center of those principles, pray and read his Bible every day, and allow those God-centered principles to guide his life and determine the person he would become. After we said goodbye, I read over the first version of this blog. I hadn’t thought of it during our conversation, but I realized the last line I wrote was,
“The principles you live by are the principles you teach the next generation.”
Before any other principle, a “Battle Ready Christian” practices the principle of prayer until they live a life of prayer. Jesus taught his disciples a method of prayer in Matt 6: 9-13, but He didn’t expect them to sit and recite ’The Lord’s Prayer’ every morning for the rest of their lives. He taught it to them so they would develop a life of prayer.
I do not believe it is when a person chooses to become intimately acquainted with God that they will develop a life of prayer. I believe that is when their faithful habit of prayer will begin to become a life of prayer. This is the place where I am. I believe it is when a person realizes God wants to become intimately acquainted with them that they will move further into living a life of prayer. But I believe it is not until a person fully realizes the weight of the truth that God wants so much to be intimately acquainted with them that He sent His only begotten Son to die for them (John 3:16) that they will fully live a life of prayer.
May we all, like the Apostle Paul, cry out, “I want to know you and the power of your resurrection (Phil. 3:10),” until we are so intimately acquainted with God that we understand the full weight of the words, “For God so loved the world . . . .”