So I haven’t exactly been posting every week like I promised. I apologize. Really, I shouldn’t be writing even now, but we all know studying isn’t that important, anyway. Right?
On today’s menu, I want to share a quote I recently stumbled across. Quotes are addictive, and if you’re the type to collect them, post them on your calendar, give them to friends, write them on your hands and arms, this one is for you. It’s simple enough to memorize. Just four words can’t be that hard. Even so, maybe you should scribble it on a palm just to be safe. But don’t worry too much because you already know the quote. Why do I say that? You read this post’s title, didn’t you? And if you didn’t, you should be ashamed of yourself because you are horrible at skimming.
If you fail at skim-reading, here’s a second chance: Pray until you pray.
I found this conundrum when reading J. B. Chapman’s writings, but it doesn’t come from him. With a quick Google search, I found it is an old Puritan saying and at least a few other blogs already have posted about it. A couple of these blogs also quote D. A. Carson‘s commentary from A Call to Spiritual Reformation. My favorite part of what Carson says is, “But in the Western world we urgently need this advice, for many of us in our praying are like nasty little boys who ring front door bells and run away before anyone answers.”
Isn’t it true? We love our routines and habits. It’s easy to fall into the pray-before-eating-and-bed regimen. You mumble a quick, “Bless this food,” before swallowing your dinner or the Lord’s Prayer as you slip into sleep. And that sums up your conversations with the Creator of the universe. But is that really prayer?
According to J. B. Chapman:
Well-meaning people have reduced prayer to a formula and have ignored the Master’s warning that the use of vain repetitions is to imitate the heathen (Matt. 6:7). Many books have been written on prayer. Many sermons have been preached in the effort to tell men how to pray. But the crux of the matter is in the simple question: does anyone answer back from the other end of the line? If there is no answer, the fault may be in a poor connection. The wires, so to speak, may be grounded. It may not help to simply “cry louder,” although no one should be ashamed for others to hear him pray and to know that he practices prayer. But whatever the trouble, that trouble must be removed and an answer secured before prayer is really prayer.
To him, “pray until you pray” means spending the time and effort to open up and reach out to God. It means making a connection. If you call someone, but the call doesn’t go through because of low reception, can you say you talked to the person? Of course not. The call dropped before the other side could answer.
It’s not just about the time you spend praying, either. “There are many who put a great deal of time but so little heart into their praying that they do very little praying in the long time they spend at it,” says R. A. Torrey in The Power of Prayer. “On the other hand, there are others who may not put so much time into praying but put so much heart into praying that they accomplish vastly more by their praying in a short time than the others accomplish by praying in a long time.”
So here’s the situation: pray like you mean it. Don’t go ring God’s door bell and then run off. At the same time, don’t deliver a meaningless speech for an hour to impress your Bible study group or to fulfill some strange prayer minutes quota. Pray from your heart and wait for God to pick up.