When a general chooses the place from which he intends to strike his enemy, he pays most attention to those points that he thinks most important in the fight. The place of private prayer is the key, the strategic position, where decisive victory is obtained.
The Enemy also knows this strategic tool is the key to success. In fact, the lengths that he goes to in order to hinder and keep us from praying should be an indication to us just how strategic prayer is. This is certainly true in my life. Why is prayer the first thing that is cut from my schedule when I get busy? How often am I tempted to postpone or shorten my time in prayer? How many times do I catch my thoughts wandering and find myself distracted by all sorts of things when I am actually praying? How often am I tempted not to pray because of unbelief and hopelessness?
The Enemy uses all his power to lead the Christian, and above all, the minister, to neglect prayer. Satan knows that however admirable the sermon may be, however attractive the service, however faithful the pastoral visitation, none of these things can damage him or his kingdom if prayer is neglected. Even when it comes to Bible study, the distraction can be studying for the sake of teaching it to others, or simply for the sake of knowledge, and failing to make it personal and praying through how God wants me to apply it to my life!
Happy is the prayer hero who, through it all, takes care to hold fast to his weapon and use it regularly. Like our Lord in Gethsemane, the more violently the Enemy attacked, the more earnestly He prayed, and He did not stop until He had obtained the victory. After naming all the other parts of the armor, Paul adds, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). Without prayer, the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, and the Sword of the Spirit (God’s Word) have no power. All depend on prayer. God, teach us to believe and hold fast to prayer!
In order for prayer to be powerful and effective, it must be more than just praying at the dinner table, or reciting something from memory. Although praying scripture from memory can certainly be a great thing. Like Jesus disciples asked in Mark 9:28-29 “Why could we not cast it out?” Jesus response should be a challenge to us also.
“This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” If the life is not one of self-denial—of fasting (letting the world go) and of prayer (laying hold of heaven)—faith cannot be exercised. “The whole difficulty is that we wish to pray in the Spirit and at the same time walk after the flesh. This is impossible.” Scripture teaches us that there are only two conditions possible for the Christian: one is to walk according to the Spirit and the other is to walk according the flesh; living with God and in dependence on him voiced through prayer, or without God shown by our prayerlessness.
The flesh cannot be improved or sanctified. Here, then, we see this deep root of sin as the cause of the prayerless life. The flesh can say prayers well enough. The Christian who is still carnal (fleshly) has neither the disposition nor the strength to follow after God. He remains satisfied with his prayer of habit or custom. This makes powerful prayer impossible.
- What is your “core belief” regarding prayer? We say prayer is important and valuable, but based on how much you pray, what do your actions show? How important to you is prayer REALLY?
- When you think about the lengths Satan goes to distract and hinder you from praying, what does that indicate about the value Satan places on prayer in his battle plan?
- What are the biggest hindrances for you to develop a consistent prayer time?
- What can you do to begin minimizing them?
- What is your first step in moving toward making prayer a more powerful weapon in your life?
Adapted from Andrew Murray Chapter 2, “Living a Prayerful Life.”