More frequently than I care to admit, I find it hard in the morning to bend my knees. In fact, I often find it difficult no matter what time of day it is. And I am not referencing an increasing awareness of arthritis. I am speaking about something far more debilitating: pride and therefore prayerlessness.
Physically, it usually becomes increasingly difficult to bend our knees, the older that we grow. But spiritually, the more my life suffers the wear and tear of a sin-cursed world, the easier it should be for me to confess my need for help, to bend my knees and to pray. So why do I struggle at times with doing so? I suppose I could offer several reasons (let’s be frank—excuses) but the fundamental problem is pride.
Since prayer is a confession of dependence, to pray—to really pray—requires taking self in hand, admitting my inadequacies, and casting myself on another. It is my resistance to this requirement of humility that causes the calcifying of my spiritual knees.
I saw a doctor today who pointed out that, because of some problems with my feet, I may eventually end up with some knee problems. He prescribed some exercises that, if I follow, will prolong my ability to run. If I ignore these instructions, I may still able to run, but my efforts will be increasingly painful; it will be less enjoyable and my ability will be hampered. Clearly, I would be foolish to not make the necessary adjustments in my daily schedule to do the exercises.
But if this is true for something so temporal as running, how much more important is it that I obey my Great Physician, and do what I must to exercise spiritually? I must consistently do the deep knee bends of humility, the stretching of the arms and the lifting of the hands in humble submission, and the bowing of my head in deference to God’s will. Though ‘bodily exercise profits a little,” yet “godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). Certainly, heartfelt prayer is an exercise both of and from godliness. I need more exercise in this area. Do you?
Again, pride is at the heart of prayerlessness. You might be thinking that I have overstated this and that, as least as far as you are concerned, prayerlessness is due to a very busy schedule. But I would encourage you to think again. Ask yourself, what is it about your schedule that minimises the place of prayer? Perhaps better, what are you doing in your schedule that does not require God? Is it possible that you and I are “too busy” to pray because, in fact, we have taken upon ourselves responsibilities that ultimately belong to God?
As a personal example, in my sermon preparation, am I guilty of pride by assuming that it is my manuscript that will change lives? Or do I acknowledge that salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9)? Am I pridefully assuming that the outcome of my counselling and discipling others is completely up to my efforts? If I am not bathing these in prayer, then yes, I am guilty. And what about you?
As you go into the workplace, desiring to be a good witness for Christ, do you do so focusing all of your energies on energetic and skilful performance? Or do you couple this with prayer: “Lord, empower me for this task and be glorified in all that I do”?
Shepherding the children in our homes is a huge task. Are you doing so alone or are you looking to and leaning upon the good and great and Chief Shepherd. We can shepherd hearts; only He can change hearts.
As we are busy about the Great Commission, are we guilty of pride and prayerlessness, assuming that our strategies and our strivings are the key? Or are we crying out to the Lord of the harvest (Matthew 9:38)?
Are we seeing ourselves as the sole provider for our needs, and for the needs of our family? If so, then we will find ourselves suffering from pride prayerlessness.
In one of the most instructive of passages illustrating the importance of prayer (Mark 1:35–39), Jesus had just finished a very, very long and exhausting day of ministry. Well into the evening, He continued to minister (vv. 32–34). He was wearied to the bone. You would think that this would be the time for Him to sleep in the next morning and rejuvenate Himself. But note what in fact actually occurred: “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” What a precious scene, and what a vital principle: The person carrying the largest of burdens (the sins of the world), the one with the most important task ever given to a person (God’s redemption of the world), the one who could easily have argued that no one was busier than He, did what? He bent the knee, submitting Himself afresh to the Father, in order to “get orders from headquarters.” We see Jesus praying.
Bill Hybels wrote a book, many years ago, with the clever and impactful title: Too Busy Not to Pray. Well said.
Christian, prayerlessness reveals (among other maladies) that we are too self-sufficient. But think about this: If the Lord Jesus Christ acknowledged His dependence upon His heavenly Father, how much more are we dependent upon Him?! Picture Jesus, the Creator of the universe, praying to the Father for wisdom and sustenance—spiritual and physical. Picture Him praying for the success of His ministry, including the sanctification of His disciples (John 17:15–19). And let this picture drive you—literally—to your knees.
This episode of Jesus praying ends with the disciples searching for Him. (Clearly, they did not rise a long while before daylight, for they had no idea where He was, vv. 36–37!) When they finally found Him, they were ready to let him know His schedule for the day. There were plenty of people already lining up to hear Him speak, to be healed, and to be ministered to in a variety of ways. But what did Jesus say? “No.” Though He planned to be busy that day—as on other days—He would be busy going about His Father’s business. He told them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth” (v. 38).
Being busy is a part of life. In fact, it is part and parcel of the godly person’s life. But, like Jesus, being busy must be coupled with the virtue of humility. When it is, you will be a person who prays. And, like Jesus, you will be far more productive than those who are prayerless; you will be productive on God’s schedule.
So, begin each day attacking pride through prayerfulness. And do so throughout the day, without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). If you are a member of BBC, let’s corporately commit ourselves each Sunday evening at 5:30 to fight against pride and prayerlessness.