Do you enjoy praying? Do you consider it one of your absolute favorite things to do? Do you enjoy gathering for prayer and worship? Pause before reading on and answer these questions honestly in your own heart.
Now my guess is that many of you confessed in your heart that prayer isn't so enjoyable. Some have practically abandoned the practice of prayer altogether because it's just so unpleasant. Others have reduced it to a bare minimum duty. For years I've preached on God’s call for us to be a praying church. Not just a church that prays here and there but a church that has an insatiable thirst for God. A church that has a spirit of prayer or a culture of prayer. We began Ren in 2003 and I think we are still infants in regards to prayer. And I'm really wanting to see this change.
I want this to change for several reasons. I am convinced that if we don't find joy in spending time with God we will slowly drift away and eventually harden our hearts. I also believe that unless we come into a lifestyle of joyful sustained earnest praying we will never make the impact on the city that God intends for us. I am fully persuaded that God wants to increase His presence in our midst dramatically. Like maybe 10 or 100 or 1000 times what it is presently. I am catching glimpses of what our future could look like if we will set our hearts to pray as a church. I see outpourings of the Spirit that transform people from the inside out. I see in Providence thousands coming home to Christ. I see people being anointed to go out and touch nations.
And these dreams all hinge on prayer. I'm urging every one of us to make it our primary ambition to discover the joy of prayer. I'm urging every one of us to believe God to turn our boring gloomy prayer closet into a green pasture. I'm not satisfied that there are some people who love praying at Ren. I want everybody to love spending time with God. I want everyone to experience the living waters that can be found in prayer.
I wish a passionate email or sermon alone could awaken some of us out of prayer slumber and into a vibrant alive joyful life of prayer. I wonder sometimes if the greatest sermons on prayer wouldn't be enough. We have to want it. We have to at least decide in our hearts that we will make prayer a priority.
To be honest I struggled to find joy in prayer for years. I struggled to be consistent. I struggled to pray for an hour. It was almost torture to pray that long! But I can testify that now my time spent with God is the most delightful satisfying thing I do. I can't get enough of it. I don't even look at the clock because time flies when you enjoy something. I hear His whisper and I see His face. My heart is captivated by His beauty. I feel His embrace at times. It's become like green pastures. Like coming to the waters of divine pleasure. It's soooo good. And because I love this church I cannot help but to jealously want each of you to experience the fullness of sustained joyful prayer!
Is it easy? Yes and no. There are certainly powers of darkness that oppress. There are distractions. There are difficult circumstances that weigh us down. There are physical weaknesses and illness that make it difficult to focus. There's no question that prayer can be a fight. But in another sense we can get to a place where prayer does become easy.
It's like playing an instrument perhaps. When I first started playing guitar I was terrible and I struggled. I didn't even have good rhythm. My hands hurt. It was almost unpleasant but I kept at it because of my long term vision of the joy to be able to just jam freely. I practiced constantly. It felt sometimes like I wasn't progressing. I hit “brick walls” in my progress and got really frustrated by my limitations at times. But I kept at it until eventually it flowed. Eventually I could get out of the guitar the melodies in my head. Eventually the playing became exhilarating! It went from unpleasant to joyful. But it took time.
My dear brothers and sisters, do not give up. Do not settle for unpleasant praying. Push into God and cry to Him to teach you. Tell God you want to be the most joyful prayer in the world. Beg God to teach you the secret of joyful prayer. He is willing and eager to teach us!