A quick thought on the Spiritual Discipline of Prayer.
Updated: Aug 3, 2020
Spiritual disciplines are needed because there are no shortcuts when it comes to living for God. Hearing the preached Word of God about spiritual disciplines only go so far. It is never enough to only hear the Word; a believer must also do it (Jas 1:22). Hearing without doing is worthless, and to hear without taking any action is to lie to oneself. Daniel Segraves points out that "a believer does not receive the full benefit of the Word until he or she hears and obeys it." Spiritual growth comes by persistence; therefore, proper spiritual discipline is necessary to grow into a mature Christian. Not only does spiritual growth come by persistence, but spiritual growth comes by focus and commitment to spiritual disciplines. For instance, the spiritual disciplines of prayer, submission, devotional study, fasting, and worship do not come easily. Christians must realize they still live in perpetual conflict with the flesh. Despite believers enjoying a regenerated spirit, they still face the ongoing clash between the desire to please God and their sinful flesh (Rom 7:14–21). The fact of the matter is our carnal nature never goes away in this life.
We, as believers, will succumb to carnality when we allow the flesh, rather than the Spirit, to rule. Richard Foster rightly says, “Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” Carnality with complacency precludes us the inward transformation from fulfillment of God’s purpose. In other words, we must not allow anything to separate us from walking with the Lord and surrendering totally to His will. Foster asserts that, “the moment we feel we can succeed and attain victory over sin by the strength of our will alone is the moment we are worshipping the will.” Jesus provided an ideal prayer life before His disciples by submitting to the Father’s will. He proclaims, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). The spiritual discipline of a consistent prayer life will help guarantee that we have a successful walk with God.
So, we are saved by God’s grace through faith and not by our own works (Eph 2:8). However, we must choose whether to follow God’s direction or go our own ways. Determining to pursue what are known as spiritual disciplines as noted in the Word of God will help us mature in Christ. Foster stresses that spiritual disciplines are not meant to be a drudge, but freedom. He states, “To know the mechanics does not mean we are practicing the disciplines. The spiritual disciplines are an inward and spiritual reality, and the inner attitude of the heart is far more crucial than the mechanics for coming into the reality of the spiritual life.” He further expounds by saying, “God has given us the disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving his grace. The disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us.” After experiencing Acts 2:38, the only plan of salvation, we are challenged to respond and bring to God our very best. The scriptures challenge us to present an acceptable offering unto the Lord (Rom 12:1–2). We must yield to the growing influence of the indwelling Spirit to mature in our relationship with Him.
Only through spiritual disciplines, does this process enable us to be transformed and become useful ministers or leaders for the Kingdom of God. The spiritual disciplines open the door of inner transformation, so long as we continues to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (II Pet 3:18). Foster acknowledges, “The spiritual disciplines are intended for our good … to bring the abundance of God into our lives.” We should make every possible effort to maintain spiritual disciplines in order for the Spirit of God to empower us.
I reflected on the times I felt that prayer was a dull, boring duty that we as Spirit-filled Christians do. However, I realize that I cannot be a successful Christian without the discipline of prayer. Period. Instead of deeming prayer as dreary, I see the discipline of prayer as communicating with the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Creator and Master of the universe. Jesus Christ, the Almighty God, sends me an invitation every single day to communicate with Him. While I have not attained the “perfect” prayer life, I will continue to submit my flesh to His Will. People who do not pray become spiritually weak thus allowing carnality to take over.
In our post-modern culture, some people are so adjusted to technology and “microwave oven thinking” they think prayers should be automatically answered. To be transparent, I have fallen into that post-modern thought process. But what I have come to know is that the discipline of prayer, coupled with faith, requires daily importunity and diligence. Jesus declared, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint (Luke 18:1). Jude challenges me to improve on the discipline of prayer by saying, “But ye, beloved, building up yourself on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost” (Jude 1:20). When I am practicing the discipline of prayer, specifically praying in the Holy Ghost, there is no emotion that compares when I connect with Him, and I am in His wonderful presence.
R. Kent Hughes believes two supernatural things happen when a believer is praying in the Spirit. He suggests:
"The Holy Spirit tells us what we ought to pray for. Apart from the Spirit’s assistance, our prayers are limited by our own reason and intuition. But with the Holy Spirit’s help they become informed by Heaven. As we seek the Spirit’s help, He will speak to us through His Word, which conveys His mind regarding every matter of principle. Thus, in Spirit-directed prayer we will think God’s thoughts after Him. His desires will become our desires, His motives our motives, His ends our ends. The second benefit of “praying in the Spirit” is that it supplies the energizing of the Holy Spirit for prayer, infusing tired, even infirm, bodies and elevating the depressed to pray with power and conviction for God’s work."
There are some things that are acquired only through the discipline of prayer. When I have a need, problem, complaint, or struggling with carnality, the first thing I should do is pray. In order for me to become a successful, as a Spirit-filled Christian, the most important thing I can do, besides reading the Word of God, is pray! The discipline of prayer and the Word renew my mind, my thought life. When you find that you are not living a victorious and overcoming life, perhaps, it could be that you are trying to live without the discipline of prayer.
Praying through the Pattern of the Tabernacle every week is something I highly recommend. But, get alone with Jesus and connect. So, while you are telling Jesus all of your troubles, be sure to pause long enough to allow Him to speak to you. Plus, it is always a good idea to bring your Bible when you pray. Also, do not bring remnants or leftovers of your day to the Lord. He deserves all of you. Early morning hours of the day are some of the best times to spend with God.
Thanks for reading. I hope you're blessed.
Listed below are a few book that I recommend:
Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster.
Conquest Through Prayer by Denzil Holman
Spiritual Disciplines: Essentials Practices of the Christian Life edited by Robin Johnston and Karen Myers
James: Faith At Work by Daniel Segraves
Insights for Christian Living by Daniel Segraves