Spring 2007 Magazine: Prayer: Does it Work?
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English writer G.K. Chesterton insightfully declared, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” 


The concept also applies to prayer, which is the very foundation of the Christian life. Without question, prayer is hard work. Prayer should not be something that we use to fill in the cracks of our spare time; rather it should fill the best hours—yes hours—of each day.

Consider the habits of these godly men from The Complete Works of E. M. Bound on Prayer:
Payson wore the hardwood boards into grooves where his knees pressed so hard and so long.

Brainerd said, “I love to be alone in my cottage, where I can spend much time in prayer.”

Bishop Andrews spent the greatest part of five hours every day in prayer and devotion.

Sir Henry Havelock always spent the first two hours of each day alone with God. If the encampment was struck at 6 a.m., he would rise at 4.

Earl Carins rose daily at 6 a.m. to save an hour and a half for the study of the Bible and prayer, before conducting family worship at 7:45.

Dr. Judson’s success in prayer is attributable to the fact that he gave much time to prayer, he says on this point:

Arrange thy affairs, if possible, so that thou canst leisurely devote two or three hours every day not merely to devotional exercises but to the very act of secret prayer and communion with God. Endeavor seven times a day to withdraw from business and company and lift up thy soul to God in private retirement. Begin the day by rising after midnight and devoting some time amid the silence and darkness of the night to this sacred work. Let the hour of opening dawn find three at the same work. Let the hours of nine, twelve, three, six, and nine at night witness the same. Be resolute in this cause. Make all practicable sacrifices to maintain it. Consider that thy time is short and that business and company must not be allowed to rob thee of thy God.


So, does prayer work? Either prayer works or the men whose prayer life we have discussed have wasted hundreds of hours. Prayer is work: it calls you to communicate with your Creator early in the day and to arrange your schedule so that the lesser activities of the day be put in their proper order. Prayer is demanding and it forces you to set your priorities right.

Allow me to share with you an interesting and inspiring story. A woman named Lorena sat in my Sabbath School class. Week after week I urged the class to set aside one hour for prayer and Bible study. She says, “Finally you got to me, so I decided to give it a try.”

Their thermostat was set to come on at 6 a.m. so not wanting to wake her husband, she placed a blanket on a comfortable chair with a nice reading lamp, so that she was all set for prayer and Bible study the next morning. I had assured the class that they did not need to set an alarm because, if asked, God would awaken them right on the requested schedule. Sure enough, the next morning Lorena awoke and assuming God had done His job by waking her up at 5 a.m., she got up and settled into her easy chair wrapped in that warm blanket. But, no sooner had she gotten settled in when the thermostat came on.

Lorena says, as she tells the story, “Then I thought the Lord had let me down, but I decided to go to the kitchen and check the clock and you know what? It was exactly 5 a.m.” The Lord turned the thermostat on one hour early. What a God we serve.

As I have stressed, spiritual life is work. John Wesley’s Holy Club realized this and therefore established 22 questions to ask themselves each day. I urge you to ponder these questions.

Questions From John Wesley’s Holy Club
These are the 22 questions the members of John Wesley’s Holy Club asked themselves each day in their private devotions over 200 years ago:
1.    Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
2.    Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
3.    Do I confidentially pass on to another what was told to me in confidence?
4.    Can I be trusted?
5.    Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?
6.    Am I self-conscious, self-pitying or self-justifying?
7.    Did the Bible live in me today?
8.    Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?
9.    Am I enjoying prayer?
10.    When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
11.    Do I pray about the money I spend?
12.    Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
13.    Do I disobey God in anything?
14.    Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
15.    Am I defeated in any part of my life?
16.    Am I jealous, impure, critical, touchy, or distrustful?
17.    How do I spend my spare time?
18.    Am I proud?
19.    Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the Publican?
20.    Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
21.    Do I grumble or complain constantly?
22.    Is Christ real to me?i

Does prayer work? You are the judge. Here are a few thoughts to consider from God’s messenger:

Pray to God. Commune with Him. Prove the very mind of God, as those who are striving for eternal life and who must have a knowledge of His will. You can reveal the truth only as you know it in Christ. You are to receive and assimilate His Words; they are to become part of yourselves. This is what is meant by eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of God. You are to live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God; that is, what God has revealed. Not all has been revealed; we could not bear such a revelation. But God has revealed all that is necessary for our salvation. But God has revealed all that is necessary for our salvation. We are not to leave His word for the suppositions of men (CH, 371).

A close connection with heaven will give the right tone to your fidelity and will be the ground of your success. Your feeling of dependence will drive you to prayer and your sense of duty summon you to effort. Prayer and effort, effort and prayer, will be the business of your life. You must pray as though the efficiency and praise were all due to God and labor as though duty were all your own. If you want power you may have it, as it is awaiting your draft upon it. Only believe in God, take Him at His work, act by faith and blessings will come (CH, 367).

The darkness of the evil one encloses those who neglect to pray. The whispered temptations of the enemy entice them to sin; and it is all because they do not make use of the privileges that God has given them in the divine appointment of prayer. Why should sons and daughters of God be reluctant to pray, when prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven’s storehouse, where are treasured the boundless resources of Omnipotence? Without unceasing prayer and diligent watching, we are in danger of growing careless and of deviating from the right path. The adversary seeks continually to obstruct the way to the mercy seat, that we may not be earnest supplication and faith obtain grace and power to resist temptation (SC, 94-95).






i Paul L. Tan, Encyclopedia of 1500 Illustrations (Dallas: Bible Communications).

 

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