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I have a confession to make: I don’t struggle with prayer. I struggle with my priorities.

It was Dr. R.C. Sproul who first made this struggle clear to me. As he taught on man’s will, Dr. Sproul explained that “we always choose according to our strongest inclination at the moment of choice.” This is true for every choice we make—from whether we pray to whether we hand over our wallets to a thief. We sometimes make our decisions under duress, but in the moment we still prefer our choice to the alternative.

The hard reality that I had to face was this: the reason I don’t pray more is because I don’t want to. If I’m not praying, it’s because I believe that whatever I’m doing at the time is more important or more desirable. Until I came to grips with this, prayerlessness plagued me. I had plenty of excuses, but they only illustrated my priority problem.

One of the reasons for my priority problem was forgetting that I am a dependent creature. Every breath I take, every success I have, and every good thing comes from the very hand of God. The fruit of this article in my life, or in yours, is dependent upon the Lord’s blessing. That’s why I prayed before putting pen to paper. But it can be far too easy to trust in one’s own giftedness or past successes, forgetting that they, too, came from the Lord. So we sleep in, skipping prayer because we have a busy day ahead and want to be at the top of our game. But that is backward thinking. It’s why Martin Luther famously said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” He knew he was dependent. Our thinking has been so twisted by the fall that we often take credit for God’s past blessings and then presume upon them for the future.

Although unbelievers suppress it and Christians can forget it, our utter dependence on God is evident every day. One of the greatest and most fascinating reminders of this reality is sleep. Have you ever considered the wonder of this phenomenon? Every day, after approximately sixteen hours of activity, more than seven billion people around the world stop what they are doing, lie down, and remain in a state of physical paralysis for eight hours at a time. Even my iPhone’s battery can last longer than I can stay awake in a day. God could have made a humanity that didn’t need sleep. Instead, in His infinite wisdom, He gave us this daily reminder. No matter how big, strong, or independent we think we are, we all lie down in this vulnerable state for hours at a time. Sleep is a great leveler of men.

When you get to the end of yourself, you cannot help but find yourself in prayer.

The healthy prayer life that eludes many of us must flow from a conscious dependence on God. When we get to the end of ourselves, we cannot help but find ourselves in prayer. And this reliance on God should be obvious not only when tragedy strikes but every day. It is why the Lord taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). He knew how quickly we can forget our dependence on Him—even for our daily provision.

Prayer should be a priority in our lives. But even with right thinking, it can still be hard to make prayer a priority each day. So, how can we combat the temptation not to pray? Although there are many practical approaches, here are two ways I’ve become more consistent in prayer: knowing when I plan to pray and what I plan to pray for.

If you haven’t set a daily time to be focused in prayer, it is very easy to assume, even with the best of intentions, that you’ll pray later. And as later is always in the future, it’s never in the present. So whether it’s the first thing in the morning or before you go to bed, mark it on your calendar. Set your alarm clock around it. Treat it like any other appointment, and it will be hard to forget. This is a deliberate and proactive step to ensure that prayer remains a priority.

Also, knowing the prayer needs of my family, friends, and colleagues is like gravity bringing me to my knees. As I write this, several people I know have parents who are approaching death or who need great care. Another recently became a widow. My children are becoming old enough to ask me to pray for specific struggles in their lives. And this is not to mention those close to me who don’t know the Lord. You can’t turn on the news or check Facebook without being inundated with opportunities to pray for those who are suffering. How can I not make prayer a priority when these needs are top of mind? The next time someone asks you to pray, make the effort to take note of it so you don’t forget. I use the PrayerMate app, but a paper journal can be just as effective. The key is being mindful of the needs all around you. Who will you pray for today?

If you make prayer a priority, does that mean prayer will be easy? No. We all need help. The disciples were well aware of their struggles, so they asked Jesus to teach them to pray. The result? He gave them the Lord’s Prayer. And even when Jesus commanded Peter, James, and John to pray, they still fell asleep (Matt. 26:38). Prayer is learned—over a lifetime. A healthy prayer life develops as we grow as Christians.

Why not make prayer a priority right now? Will you join me in confessing our prayerlessness to the Lord? Let us ask Him to forgive us for elevating other matters above prayer. Then let us rejoice, knowing that we have been forgiven, and let us ask Him to give us the grace to continue to make prayer a priority.

Shepherding the Flock of God

Paying Attention in Worship

Keep Reading The Promised Messiah

From the December 2018 Issue
Dec 2018 Issue