|Great Commission Plains
Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, lived and breathed football, and football practices - in particular. He put his players through extremely rigorous training. His daily football practices were grueling. So hard in fact, that many of his players looked forward to game day. For relief! : )
Lombardi knew that winning came only through conditioning.
For Christian men I believe the same is true. Christians are conditioned by God and strengthened in their soul through prayer. The disciplines of the Christian life make a man spiritually stronger. And prayer disciplines our soul and spirit. Without prayer we're not in shape to take the victory God wants for each of us.
With this in mind, let's look at a few things that can hinder prayer in our lives. Things that hamper the man who wants to pray and who wants to make a difference:
1. One thing that hinders God from working through us and makes our prayer anemic, is sin. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, Thou wilt not hear me." - Psalm 66:18 This verse doesn't mean that we need to go looking for sin in our heart. But rather that if God has brought an area of sin to our attention, we need to deal with it.
2. A second thing that can hinder prayer is a self-sufficient attitude. For example, "I don't need to talk to God about this - I can handle it myself." Relying on God and His wisdom in all things is a good habit to strive for. Develop this dependent habit towards our Savior, no matter how strong you may think you are.
“The fact is, we have too much strength. We are not weak enough. It is not our own strength that we want. One drop of God’s strength is worth more than all the powers on earth.” - Dwight L. Moody
3. A third hindrance to prayer is distrust. We pray, yet we don't really trust. We don't believe God will work in our particular circumstance. And of course without faith, He doesn't. So when He doesn't work and help us, we eventually stop asking Him to. It's a vicious circle. Just remember that without faith it’s impossible to please God. If we have believed in Him for our salvation, certainly we can believe in Him for our circumstances. We need to recognize distrust for what it really is. It’s just plain, old, sin.
Unbelief is not just a bad idea. Unbelief is sin. In Hebrews 3, God says, “Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today’ . . .”
Distrust is the attitude of an unbeliever, of the lost. Fathers, especially, should be ones who are leading out in prayer. And believing in God. Before our wives and before our families. It reveals to them that we too are under submission to our Lord.
Before moving on, might I mention that the whole area and discipline of prayer - is crucial to our intake of the Word. If a man has trouble getting into the Word, and getting something out of it, he's probably not praying as he ought to. Prayer is the daily practice that gets us ready to hear and listen to our Lord.
God has convinced me of this. I've been a Christian for many years, and for a few of those years I was not convinced of the importance of prayer. Oh sure I prayed, but then God gripped me in prayer - and the Word came alive!
Now let's look at some things that help prayer in our lives:
First, be specific and think about what you're asking God for.
Paul told the Corinthians, "I shall pray with the spirit and I shall pray with the mind also." - I Cor. 14:15. This kind of specific prayer is hard work. James in his epistle speaks of the energetic, fervent prayer of a righteous man as able to accomplish much. And energetic, fervent prayer is not just emotion. There is purpose and a plan. Often prayer items and people that we are praying for, should be written down.
Second, an ordered time of prayer is vital. Turning to God
throughout the day is important, but in my experience, spontaneous prayer has been the fruit of an ordered time of prayer - not the other way around.
And a time devoted to prayer can be strengthening to our soul. Starting with a few minutes and building up from there. Just like exercising. Ten minutes is good and eventually we can exercise for 40 minutes. But it takes steps and those steps are bitten off, over time.
Ordered times of prayer, often get down to just staying alert and awake in it. The disciples had trouble with an hour of prayer. Even when Jesus was praying just a few steps away. We too can have trouble with almost any amount of time. We tend to fall asleep. Maybe not physically, but our mind sure tends to wander. We drift and are sleepy.
Keeping a prayer list can also help you be more specific in
prayer. It causes us to order our prayers and think, and beseech, and persevere. A prayer list will also help build our faith when God answers those same prayers.
You can't judge the effect of prayer after just one day. But at the end of a month, if you would keep a prayer list everyday, just a brief thought as you're praying, you will see answers. Work on this habit for one month, and at the end of that month I guarante your faith will be stronger.
Why? Because we sometimes forget when He answers prayer. But with a prayer list you can go back and see that prayer you offered earlier and forgot. But God didn't forget - He answered it!
Initially my requests always made for a long list, while my receiving side of the ledger was somewhat shorter. However, as I go back and review my written record, I begin to see more and more answers. This causes my faith to grow.
And it will cause your faith to grow too - if you're specific.
A fourth area that helps our prayer life is intensity.
If we value prayer, if our heart is in it, we'll be intense. If prayer has
been a chronic problem in your Christian life over the past month, year, whatever . . . it can change. And it can begin to change today if you want it to. But start with more passion. Ask God to change your attitude about prayer and begin to talk right now to your Lord – and mean it. Be intense!
You can't pray intensely and stay the same. Prayer changes us. It should always change us. If it doesn’t change us, something is wrong.
When I speak of being intense I'm not talking about cheap emotion. Too many Christians are involved in this kind of shallowness. They show up at prayer meetings and automatically the tears flow. I wonder if these Christians pray like that in private? After all, what you pray in private is all that is genuine. That's why I believe intensity in prayer begins alone.
Pharisees can pray intensely in public without praying intensely in private, but Christians can't. We must be devoted to our quiet, secret, close times of prayer, with the Lord.
Of course it's great to join together in prayer as a church, but our united, public prayer is only as effective as our private, individual prayer.
The final and maybe most important discipline that grows
prayer, in each of our lives, is to - spend time at it!
It doesn’t help to get discouraged by setting a too high, or false goal of trying to spend too many minutes in prayer. For most of us, I would guess that 15 minutes a day spent in prayer would be progress. I don't say this to shame us, but simply to encourage ‘first steps’.
I'm not talking about reading the Word; I'm talking about fifteen minutes in prayer. I'm not talking about singing or listening to Christian music - but praying. Fifteen minutes would be helpful. A good start. And 15 minutes would be very encouraging.
Step by step we will inherit the land.
Evaluate your own condition, your own obedience in prayer habits. What’s going on right now in your life when it comes to prayer? Take honest stock of where you’re at. Then begin to pray. A little. Then a little more. Look at what God wants for you and please begin to pray.
Men, we need to be men of prayer.
John Wesley said, "God does nothing but in answer to prayer."
God moves in answer to prayer.
He tells us in Jeremiah 33:3, "Call unto Me, and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things that you have not seen."
We know we must call upon Him. So knock, and keep knocking. Ask, and keep asking. Know that God answers prayer.
The subject of prayer is something we Christians hear about often. Unfortunately we need to - for we often fail to take what we hear to heart.
I heard a brother speak about the importance of prayer many years ago. I listened and knew that what he was saying was right. I knew I needed to change my prayer habits (or lack of prayer habits).
I took careful notes, yet I didn't take it to heart. Oh, I prayed, but I didn't pray as I should. It wasn't a vital part of my life. It wasn't in my blood, in my spirit. It wasn't driven into my heart, into my life. It wasn't gripping me!
And I suffered from this lack for many years.
Don't make my same mistake. Keep your eyes on God by thinking about your prayers, have an ordered time of prayer. Keep a prayer list. Show intensity in your prayer life, men. Stay awake in prayer.
And spend time at it, dear friend.
- Rick Whitney