When I sit down to write these weekly letters, it’s usually a process that takes some time. There’s quite a bit of study that’s involved, many, many revisions, drafts that never go published, and on and on, before I actually hit send.
Then there are the exceptions. Letters that just seem to come to me from out of nowhere. I’ll be out walking, or sitting quietly in the morning with a coffee in hand waiting before the Lord, and a whole discourse begins to run through my head. Once I put pen to paper, I’m able to write the entire letter from start to finish without stopping, somehow knowing exactly what to say next.
I didn’t intend to publish again this week, but I woke up with words in my head, partially inspired by a journal entry of George Whitefield’s that I read last night before falling asleep.
Friday, Feb. 24, 1738, “Blessed be God! Who this day hath shewn me that He hath heard my prayer, and not taken His lovingkindness from me. Long before I reached Gibraltar, I prayed that God would open an effectual door at the place whither we were going, and direct me where I should lodge, and lo! this day He has answered me.
Be careful for nothing; but in every (even the minutest) thing, make your wants known unto God. For He careth for you.”
This is a shorter letter, but I hope you’ll find it helpful as a simple explanation of prayer and why we ought always pray and never give up.
Prayer is simply making our needs known to God, even the smallest, and at all times.
It is no focus on the exact right words nor in making a suitable sacrifice to get His response. But in everything, let your requests be known to Him.
Then, believe He has heard you, trust He is able, and wait expectantly for His providential answer.
And while you wait, praise Him, glorify His name, tell Him of His wondrous deeds. Lift up a cry of thanksgiving, pour out an offering of pure worship with songs, hymns, spiritual songs, and groaning which cannot be uttered.
And after you’ve let an overflow of praise spring forth from your heart, then meditate upon Him. Think of His ways, His nature, His character. Dwell upon His words. Set your mind to seek Him. Fix the gaze of your heart on Him and Him alone. Run these words as a record on repeat through your soul, knowing that they are life itself. Feed therefore upon Him as you meditate, as you praise, as you wait, as you trust, as you believe, as you pray.
And once you have done all these things, and you start to see Him more clearly as there and everywhere and all around you, there can be no other response but one of deep desire. A longing to be alone with Him. An eagerness to be in His very presence. A ‘panting of the soul’ as you realize no other place will satisfy, no one else is sweeter, more lovely. Oh, to dwell in His house, to be even a doorkeeper in His courts, it would be far better than a thousand days elsewhere. There is none that I desire besides You!
And in saying You to Him, we now see that all along we have been praying not to some unnamed distant all-powerful force, but to a Person, near to us, among us, and as Paul proclaimed in Athens, to those praying to the unknown god, “He is actually not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:27-28)
This is not to say He is a man like us, nor to say that He exists to cater to our needs, nor even to say that He can be contained in our thoughts and words, for these are finite and our God, He is infinite, immortal and exceedingly above and beyond all we could ask, think, or imagine.
Many have stumbled in their prayer life by making this mistake, by only calling Him by one name, friend, as one would call out to a buddy. They lovingly speak to Him as friend, but never as Lord, demanding to sit at the choicest spot at the Master’s table, refusing to accept the teaching, “We are unprofitable servants, we have done what was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10)
Some also have led others astray by a focus on vain repetitions, thinking it is because of certain words spoken in a certain order by a certain person that our prayers are answered. Yet the Scriptures refute these points quite clearly.
The woman with the blood problem for 12 years spoke nothing, yet was healed by simply reaching out her hand to take hold of Him. (Luke 8:43)
And the Gentile mother, who was considered to be the least of a certain person, received healing for her daughter with a simple, “Lord, help me!” And then, “even the little dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their Master’s table.” (Matthew 15:21-28)
Countless more have been stopped in their prayers by other distractions and deceptions. To call out every one of these obstacles by name here would take too much space, therefore I say first, to those distracted, search your heart. What are the hindrances, indulgences, or obligations that stop your prayers?
And second, to those deceived, I echo Paul’s words to the Galatians, “O foolish ones, who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth?” (Galatians 3:1)
Let us lay aside all distractions and deceptions, every weight that would tie us down to earth and keep us from heavenly things, and hold fast in simple obedience to the truth, “Men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1)
Therefore we must pray, always and for all things, even the smallest, to our Father in heaven, hallowed, revered, holy greatly to be praised and feared and loved and adored, is His name.
It is so, it is true, and we believe it. Amen.
P.S. For further reading on prayer, here are three other past letters.