The Discipline of Prayer
You don’t want to read this, do you? — Already the title has turned you off. I know, because it contains two words from which most humans run: discipline, and prayer.
Yes, yes… I know… Prayer can be enervating, draining of one’s energy and vitality… a prolonged, arduous task. But prayer can also be exhilarating, a lifting of soul and spirits heavenward, above earthbound trials, worries, or fears – a true meeting of the I AM and clay.
However, like a soldier on the battlefield the “prayer warrior” never knows into which each tryst will transmute: a moment of great victory, or a strenuous dry run.
In Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference?, author Philip Yancey writes, “As with physical exercise, much of the benefits of prayer comes as a result of consistency, the simple act of showing up.” Yancey tells how he “needed the discipline of regularity to make possible those exceptional times of free communication with God.” He notes how that often his prayers “seem like a kind of rehearsal,” a getting ready for a very real and dynamic encounter with God. “Mainly,” he says, “ I show up.”*
Showing up and slogging it out. All new and wholesome disciplines begin that way. Running began like that for me. I began because I sought battle against the cholesterol which had lopped off every branch of my family tree. At first it was a half-block slog… then a full mile jog, then two, then five, then ultimately marathon lengths and more. Running had left off being a slog long ago, cholesterol had been long since defeated. The discipline had become delight… a delight I would never have known had I turned back at first slog.
Some prayers are like sowing seed… as brother James shared regarding George Meuller who for 52 years faithfully prayed daily for five souls… five eternal souls… and in the end all were saved. Other prayers seem efficacious immediately – answered in such short order that we echo with the prophet the words of our Lord “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.” (Isa. 65:24). But the one who prays never knows which will result.
“Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle,” urges Solomon, “for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.” (Eccl. 11:6).
One thing however is certain. Seed not sown are never harvested, and prayers not made are never answered.
*Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference?, pp 165-66