So why is it that our prayer lives so often fall short of our prayer desires? I would hazard a guess that the number one reason is the busyness of our lives. We are so busy.
Believe it or not, the One who taught us to pray had a life remarkably like our own. Jesus was an incredibly busy man. The Gospels record only fifty-two days of His life, but what a whirlwind of activity is chronicled in those few hundred hours! If you wrote down the events of each day on fifty-two sheets of paper, I doubt if you would have enough room on each page to report even the major incidents that took place.
The busiest day of our Lord is recorded in the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel. This day was crowded with miracles to perform, lessons to teach, people to heal, disputes to settle. It was a day totally dedicated to reaching out to people and ministering to their deep needs. How draining that kind of intensive ministry can be! It’s hard to understand the strain on both mind and body if you’ve never endured a day of full-force, non-stop ministry.
He didn’t just preach several sermons and go home to a nice, filling dinner. One after another, people came to him for healing, for understanding, for a gentle touch. Minute after minute, hour after hour, from the rising of the sun until the pale glow of sunset, Jesus worked. People with problems flocked to Him. A son was ill. A daughter crippled. A neighbor was tormented by a demon. Two friends were arguing over some point of doctrine. And one by one, need after need, Jesus ministered to them all.
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But He still wasn’t done. Mark tells us, “And when evening had come, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city had gathered at the door” (Mark 1:32-33).
The morning after is always the hardest, isn’t it? You’re exhausted. You have nothing left to give. Your bed seems like heaven. That’s the morning that you say, “Well, I guess I’ll just skip it today.”
But not Jesus. The morning after the busiest day of His life was the morning He chose to rise early and pray.
“Oh, but that’s Jesus,” you might say. Following that example seems impossible, no matter how much we might want to. For us, survival is the biggest success story we dare hope for. We are ordinary people, not the Son of God, and we feel “too tired” a lot. We’d like to pray more; we understand that Jesus took time out to pray after the most exhausting day of His life. But that’s Jesus, we think; we’re just ordinary people.
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And yet the very thing that keeps us from praying is the very reason why we need to pray. It is the means God has chosen to work through us. It is an essential tool for life and ministry.
I scoured the New Testament some time ago, looking for things God does in ministry that are not prompted by prayer. Do you know what I found?
I don’t mean I had trouble finding an item or two; I mean I found nothing. Everything God accomplishes in the work of ministry, He does through prayer. Consider:
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I could go on listing the myriad divine activities initiated by prayer, but I suspect you get the point. Everything we do that’s worth doing; everything God wants to do in the church; everything God wants to do in your life; He has subjugated it all to one thing: Prayer. I am reminded of a little paradigm I heard years ago that embodies a crucial truth concerning our prayer lives:
What we do for the Lord is entirely dependent upon what we receive from the Lord, and what we receive from the Lord is entirely dependent upon what we are in the Lord, and what we are in the Lord is entirely dependent upon time we spend alone with the Lord in prayer.
It is impossible for us to do or to be anything that God wants us to do or be, apart from spending time in the prayer closet.
All of us are busy. Life isn’t slowing down, it’s speeding up. Yet that is precisely why we need to take time to pray. It is said that Martin Luther declared he had so much to do, he could not get through it without spending at least three or four hours on his knees before God each morning. Unlike him, we are tempted to think that, when life slows down, then we’ll take time to pray. Jean Fleming almost stepped into that trap. Fleming wrote, “I find myself thinking, when life settles down I’ll… But I should have learned by now that life never settles down for long. Whatever I want to accomplish, I must do with life unsettled.”1
Oswald Chambers puts it all in perspective when he writes, “Remember, no one has time to pray; we have to take time from other things that are valuable in order to understand how necessary prayer is. The things that act like thorns and stings in our personal lives will go away instantly when we pray; we won’t feel the smart anymore, because we have God’s point of view about them. Prayer means that we get into union with God’s view of other people.”2
Above all, remember Jesus arose early to pray on the morning after the busiest day of His life, so why should we think we can do without it when busyness crowds into our own schedules? He is our model. He is our guide. Only when we follow His instructions and His example in this crucial area of prayer will we discover the deepest joy in our adventure with Him.
This is an excerpt from David Jeremiah’s book, Prayer—the Great Adventure. Click here for the complete book.
1.John Piper, Desiring God, Tenth Anniversary Expanded Edition (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 1996), 146.
2.Ibid., 146, 147.
Dr. David Jeremiah is the founder of Turning Point Radio and Television Ministries and senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church. He is a sought-after conference speaker for organizations around the country. He frequently speaks at Cedarville College, Dallas Theological Seminary, Moody Bible Institute, Billy Graham Training Center, Phil Waldrep’s Senior Adult Celebrations, National Quartet Convention and numerous NFL, NBA and Baseball chapels. Dr. Jeremiah’s commitment is to teach the whole Word of God. His passion for people and his desire to reach the lost are evident in the way he communicates Bible truths and his ability to get right to the important issues. Dr. Jeremiah continues to be excited to see what God is going to do in broadcast ministry around the world through the Ministries of Turning Point.
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Publication date: May 8, 2017