Friday, January 1, 2010

Start The New Year With Prayer

Do you pray? Did it occur to you that starting the New Year with prayer is a good idea. Lord knows we are going to need it. Just read the headlines in the newspaper this morning...uh...after prayer, course. Or better yet, pray over the newspaper and listen for those gentle little nudges that seem to implore you to pray for that person, event or whatever.

I want to begin this new year by referring you to a marvelous tract by the great J. C. Ryle entitled A Call To Prayer. It's long and will take maybe 20 minutes or longer to read it. Yeah I know, that's a long time. And I've heard some say, I'm not a good reader. Well, sorry, I have no sympathy for that old excuse. Unless you haven't been taught to read, you can read. So it takes you longer. Do something I do which has, in the long run, made me a better reader. Cut up the reading into segments. Take a portion at a time and digest it. Highlight it with a yellow marker or underline the points that strike you as important. Keep a dictionary close at hand. Or use an online dictionary. Write questions that pop into your mind. You'll find many of your questions will be answered later. When you feel you've had enough, lay it down and pick it up later. But read.

Now back to prayer. This is one of the most powerful quotes in the article.

"What is the reason that some believers are so much brighter and holier than others? I believe the difference, in nineteen cases out of twenty, arises from different habits about private prayer. I believe that those who are not eminently holy pray little, and those who are eminently holy pray much."

Now if you wonder what Ryle is talking about, read the article. I'm not going to synthesize it for you. Let me just say, I was told recently of a well known evangelical leader who made the statement to one of his elders, a friend of mine, that he just didn't need to pray everyday. I guess he felt he was walking with God so closely that he didn't need to pray.

Well, if that is true, he is a very unusual person. I think I'll let J.C. Ryle answer that one. He said,

"You may be very sure men fall in private long before they fall in public. They are backsliders on their knees long before they backslide openly in the eyes of the world. Like Peter, they first disregard the Lord's warning to watch and pray, and then like Peter, their strength is gone, and in the hour of temptation they deny their Lord."

Have you ever said,

"I don't know how to pray."
"I just don't have a convenient place to pray."
"I don't have time."
"I just can't pray unless I'm given the heart of prayer and or my faith is weak."

J.C. addresses these excuses and many others in the great article on prayer. I was deeply moved by this article. Also please remember, this is not something to be done to make you better before God. God has already done that for you in the person of Jesus Christ. Prayer is an act of obedience and response to the call of God within you to be what he has designed you to be. You and I were designed for fellowship with God. Prayer is simply fellowship between two parties, you and God. So this is not an act of works or deed. This is part of the ongoing grace of God in our salvation and sanctification.

I'll not have any long obituary after I die. My life is not remarkable and my death will not impact society. I'll just be another statistic. But, I hope that the one thing they can put on my gravestone which will reflect my legacy is simply, "He Prayed." That's all. Nothing more. Somehow I think that prayer is the secret to living. I only hope and pray my prayers will have made some kind of difference after I'm gone.

So now, take a few moments and then go read J.C. Ryle's A Call To Prayer. Take time and make time.

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