A leader must remain aware of his desperate need for God to help him and to guide him in his leadership role. One of the ways that we can stay aware of this desperate need is through a devotion to regular times of prayer. Prayer is the expression of our life’s dependence on God.
What if Jesus was serious when he said, “I want you to pray like this”? Sometimes we struggle with prayer because we are unsure of what to say or we feel like we’ve run out of things to say. But Jesus taught his disciples exactly what to say, and he wanted them to say it regularly.
I know I'm not the only one, but I must confess that there are too many days in my life where I overlook the incredible privilege of having access to the Creator of the universe. I have been given the freedom to come to him with all my cares and concerns, and yet I don't.
There's a story that Jesus once told about a woman's persistence, and in that story he gives us a profound perspective on the kind of freedom that we have in coming to God. He said:
“In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’”
And then Jesus ends this story with the following teaching point:
“Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?"
You see, like the persistent widow in the story, we have been given an open invitation to bother God with our prayers. Persistence in prayer that is coming from a heart that is pure is something that pleases God, and it also honors him as the Sovereign Authority over all everything that happens in this life.
However, in our persistence, we must also remember who we are approaching each time that we pray and then approach him with the kind of posture that is appropriate. I think sometimes we can view our open invitation as something that we have earned in some way. I think sometimes we point to a decision that we have made or the kind of life that we are living and assume that we have reached a level of spirituality that warrants God's attention.
We need to remember that we only have access because we've been given a credential.
Our free access to God has not been granted because of who we are or something that we have done; it has been granted to us because of who Christ is and what he has done.
If I tried to walk into Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland by myself, it wouldn't take long before I was stopped and escorted back outside. But if I walked in with Lebron James, it would be a different story. I would be granted free access because of who Lebron is, and what he has accomplished. My relationship with Lebron would give me a credential to the arena in Cleveland.
In the same way, Christ is the required credential for entering into the presence of God. We have an open invitation to bother the Creator but only because of our relationship with Christ.
So lets approach God persistently but lets make sure to mix in the appropriate amount of humility. And lets rejoice in the freedom that we have in prayer but lets remember why we have it.
I am a regular at the local coffee shop in Downtown Woodstock as it has become my own personal office. Rather than playing zone defense in an attempt to defend my privacy from four children under the age of eight, I sit quietly at my favorite table up against the wooden bleacher seating unique to Copper Coin Coffee in Woodstock, Georgia. This coffee shop get-a-way is an application of wisdom and discernment on my part. As I sit there each week and cherish my Ethiopian pour-over, I seek to take advantage of this quiet time. It is here that I often find the Holy Spirit subtly offering His wisdom aimed directly at my heart.
I am a drink person. I love coffee every morning, hot tea from time to time, and some sort of special beverage in the evening. I have a method to my morning madness that includes a handheld coffee grinder, fresh roasted coffee beans, a Hario kettle for the water and my own Aeropress to bring it all together. I love this part of my morning. And as you can see, I love sitting at the local coffee shop and enjoying various kinds of coffee from all over the world.
Therefore, it doesn’t take much to conclude that coffee is something I desire, and something that I go out of my way for each and every day to enjoy. If I was to go a day without a cup, I’d miss it — not necessarily the caffeine but the experience.
I cherish and desire these quiet times with a cup of coffee, but what about quiet time with my Father in heaven?
Do I cherish and desire communion with God each and every day and pursue Him with the same consistency that I pursue a good cup of coffee? What about you? Would a day without any coffee (or your own item of pleasure) be a bigger deal to you than a day without any thoughtful conversation with God? This may sound ridiculous (thats debatable), but there's some truth here.
In His great Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commands us as His followers to go out of our way each and every day to enjoy our Father’s presence in prayer. He says,
"But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." - Jesus
Prayer is without question the most important practice in our Christian life. Prayer is without a doubt “the highest activity of the human soul.” There is nothing greater for a man to undertake or to experience than pure communion with his Maker. But if we are honest with ourselves, we might have to admit that it is often the hardest thing to practice in our Christian life as well.
Is there anything more difficult in the Christian life than a sincere and serious commitment to speak with God in prayer? How much easier do we find it to speak with everyone else around us than we find it to speak with God? Do we not find ourselves with much less to say when we are alone in silence with God than with others out in public? Therefore, what does it tell us about our own Christian condition when we examine the time we spend alone with God?
As Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it:
“It is when we have left the realm of activities and outward dealings with other people, and are alone with God, that we really know where we stand in a spiritual sense. It is not only the highest activity of the human soul, it is the ultimate test of our true spiritual condition.”
Study the history of great men throughout church history, and you will see the seriousness with which they approached this issue of prayer. It’s a seriousness we see also in the lives of the disciples. The disciples watched the way Jesus spent time and spoke to His Father in prayer, and they desperately wanted what He seemed to have. They saw how He would get up early before the sunrise and how He’d go up alone upon the mountain and how He’d spend the whole night in prayer with His Father.
There is little doubt that this is what lead them to humbly beg, “Lord, teach us how to pray.” They wanted to pray like He was praying. They wanted to know God like He knew Him. They wanted to enjoy the Father’s presence in the same way that Jesus seemed to enjoy Him.
Jesus never taught His disciples how to preach; only how to pray.
Jesus tells us to seek God in the secret places and that is where He awaits for us. May we join the disciples in asking, “Lord, teach us how to pray.” We should desperately desire quiet time with our Father and go out of our way to have it. We need to shut out the world and shut ourselves in with God. May our Father in Heaven free us from the thought of prayer ever being a duty or a burden and may the secret place with our Father be our most cherished and desired place on earth.