If you’re neglecting prayer, at least two things are evident.
1. You’re arrogant.
2. You’re missing out.
To neglect prayer is the highest form of arrogance. I’ve prayed a lot. I’ve consistently prayed with grieving people, before meals, after waking up, and before going to sleep. For me, the problem has never been one of frequency but one of urgency. Essentially, I viewed prayer like that extra fork they give you at nice restaurants. You don’t think you really need it but you use it anyway. Imagine that. Talking with the Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of the universe as a non-essential. Arrogance.
When we neglect prayer, we also miss out on the encouragement that comes with being in the presence of God. We tend to think of encouragement either as people affirming us in our supposed greatness or diverting our attention from our ever-present failures. But in prayer, there is another, deeper kind of encouragement.
Someone is listening to me. Not just someone. God. God is listening to me. The one who made me hears my prayers. But he does even more than just listen. He’s actively at work in my prayer. His work isn’t centered on trying his best to get my request taken care of, like some FM disk jockey. Instead, his concern is for me to know and desire him more (John 17).
When I pray, I don’t know what I’m doing. But it’s cool. Neither does Billy Graham or John Piper. I’m in good company. At first that doesn’t seem very encouraging until I consider what God does with my futile attempts at prayer. Paul says in Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
In Christ, every word I speak in prayer is hand delivered by the Holy Spirit to God the Father with such a passion that Paul cannot even describe it. The Triune God is on the move and never is that more personally evident than when I pray.
I’ve told a lot of people that I would pray for them and for the most part I’ve followed through with my promise. I also have people who I know pray for me. These are people who I know take prayer seriously. I know that if I tell these folks to pray for something, they’ll do it. It’s good and encouraging to know that others are praying for you. But there’s something even greater than that.
In Romans 8:34, Paul tells us that it is Jesus Christ, “who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
Jesus is praying for me.
Whatever this day may bring I can face it with full confidence that my prayers are heard because of the Holy Spirit. And I can face this day knowing that Jesus himself is praying for me. His aim isn’t to boost my ego but to point my attention to his Father.
Encouragement can be a funny thing. Sometimes it can make you feel better and sometimes it just lets you know that people feel sorry for you.
“Bless your heart.”
“He means well.”
“I’ll be praying for you.”
No one ever said, “Well, bless your heart” to Michelangelo after they saw what he did to the Sistine Chapel. I, on the other hand, have heard it spoken my way quite a few times. The one who says it, I’m sure, always means well but for some reason it doesn’t leave me feeling too good about myself.
Jesus has never told me, “Well, bless your heart.”
Jesus knows that I don’t mean well.
But in his word, Jesus tells me that he is praying for me.