Dave Acree’s full job title is the EFCC’s Prayer and Spiritual Life Catalyst. He’s passionate about getting more people to engage in spiritual growth. This blog post is the accompaniment to our monthly Prayer Calender, which you may find out more about here.
I pro-actively visited the doctor a couple of weeks ago for my annual check-up. Everything’s fine. I’m relieved. Yet most of the times we go to the doctor tend to be reactive in response to something endangering our health. Everything’s not fine and we know we need help if we are to maintain or regain that coveted healthy status.
When Jesus was on the earth the religious establishment of the day had problems with his ministry methodology. He ate and mingled with tax collectors and sinners. “It is not the healthy that need a doctor but the sick,” was Jesus’ answer to their challenge.
It has helped me to think of prayerlessness as a spiritual sickness.
When Jesus’ disciples were struck with PIC (prayer inferiority complex) they went to Jesus and asked him to teach them to pray. They knew they needed help and when it came to prayer, Jesus had “doctor” status in their eyes.
In the same way, if prayerlessness is a form of spiritual sickness, we need to go to “doctor” Jesus in order to deal with it. One way to do this is to study the practice of prayer in the life of Jesus and his teachings on prayer. As I have done this I have imagined Jesus writing out the following prescriptive plan:
- INTENTIONALLY PRAY: That’s like saying, “Exercise regularly” or “Just do it.” Jesus prayed throughout his life. “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” (Luke 6:12) He modeled individual times of prayer but also called us to group In Luke 11 in response to the request to teach them to pray he gave what we call the “Lord’s Prayer” with the intention that it be prayed as a corporate experience.
- BOLDLY ASK: After giving this model prayer to the disciples he told them a parable that taught them to ask the Father for good gifts with shameless audacity. Pray for others; Jesus did. We don’t know what Jesus prayed for all night before choosing the Twelve, but maybe he prayed for them! We know he prayed for Peter, “Simon, Simon Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32) Read through John 17 to see how he prayed for the disciples as a group and how he prayed for us who would believe because of them. Pray for your own needs; Jesus did. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
- QUIETLY LISTEN: Perhaps in his times of prayer, Jesus was doing as much listening as speaking. “I seek not to please myself but him who sent me” (John 5:30); “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me” (John 7:16); “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me” (John 8:28); “Whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (John 49-50) Sometimes what God is saying is drowned out by the noise of our own words.
There is no quick fix for prayerlessness. It’s like taking antibiotics for an infection. If we don’t stay the course and take them all the way to the end, they can’t do their job in the present and may in fact become ineffective for the future.
Don’t settle for prayerlessness. Don’t accept your “Prayer Inferiority Complex” as the norm. Pray like Jesus prayed!