The School of Prayer

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Recently, someone told me how blessed they have been by a book by fellow South African Andrew Murray: With Christ in the School of Prayer. I’ve made a mental note to read it soon. But I am not waiting until then before enrolling in that school. In fact, it seems like the past few months, and especially the past few weeks, have enrolled me in a crash course. I’m applying myself to this course as though my life depended on it. In fact, it does.

I’m guessing that many of you are like me and that the importance of prayer has been prioritised. If we had been guilty of seeing it as merely an elective in our Christian life, we now see it as an essential course from which we will never matriculate. We will continue to be examined practically concerning our fervency and consistency as well as our confidence at prayer. I am being reminded, as never before, of how fundamental prayer is to my spiritual life. I am learning that, like the gospel, prayer is not the A-B-Cs of the Christian life but rather prayer is the A–Z of my life.

Prayer, it has been said, is to our spiritual life what breathing is to our physical life. And since Christians reject the fallacy of dualism, we know that our physical well-being is often connected to our spiritual well-being. David wrote of his body wasting away when he was under conviction of sin (Psalms 6 and 32). And a weary body can play havoc with our spirit. Just ask Elijah. After his exhausting encounter with false prophets, followed by running a marathon back to Jezreel, what he needed was not a spiritual revival but rather a good meal and some sleep (1 Kings 18–19). Then he was able to pray and persevere. The point is that prayer is essential for our entire wellbeing.

In these days of what seems to be increasing stress, we need to be increasing our spiritual inhaling and exhaling of prayer. Yes, in our quiet times we must be praying, but also throughout the day. Paul exhorts us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Whatever he meant precisely, we know what he meant practically: Be always looking to the Lord. Nothing is too small to pray about and nothing is so large that we can’t pray about it.

In a time of deep distress, David prayed—and then he “journalled”: “Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and he shall hear my voice” (Psalm 55:17). When Daniel was in captivity, and at great personal risk, “he got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God” (Daniel 6:10). When the early church was beleaguered by enemies and when all was humanly hopeless, they prayed (Acts 4:23–31). The apostle was continually at prayer for others (Ephesians 1:15ff; Colossians 1:3; Romans 10:1). And, as they say, etcetera, etcetera.

The point is that we are privileged to pray and are providentially being given the opportunity to pray. A lot.

The more we pray, the “better” we will be at it. Further, the more we biblically pray, the better we will be. Our faith will be better, our peace will be better, our hope will be better all because our focus will be better. As we have recently come to see, this is precisely what we learn from Jesus as he prayed in the classroom of Gethsemane. Let us join him there, again and again, and let us learn how to pray.

With you, learning as we pray,

Doug