"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." -Luke 11:9, NIV
Do you pray? In J.C. Ryle's small but important book, A Call to Prayer, he challenges readers with this simple question. Ryle asserts "there is no duty in religion so neglected as private prayer." I'm sure many of us would agree; of all the spiritual disciplines, prayer is often the hardest habit to form and one that is most quickly broken. However, we should strive to pray often, because prayer is an incredibly important element of our faith.
Here are a few reasons Ryle* gives for why prayer is so important:
1. A habit of prayer is one of the surest marks of a true Christian. The greatest heroes and heroines of the Bible often shared a similar attribute--they were men and women of prayer. To take your frustrations, challenges, joys, hopes and dreams to God on a regular basis requires a great deal of faith- you are essentially relinquishing control and telling God, "I trust you will work on my behalf in this situation." Do you have this kind of faith? Do you pray?
2. A habit of prayer brings great encouragement to the one who prays. In the Bible, we see that prayer moved God to raise the dead, heal the sick, save souls, draw water from a rock and send bread from heaven. Prayer even made the sun stand still! The fact that prayer moves God to action should be a great encouragement to us. Are you encouraged by God's provision and power? Do you pray?
3. A habit of prayer creates holy men and women. The more we seek God out in prayer, the more our hearts are aligned with what God desires for us and we become holier men and women in the process. Are you growing closer to God? Do you pray?
4. If we do not pray, we run the risk of backsliding in our faith. Let's be clear, Ryle doesn't mean we should fear losing our salvation. However, without prayer you run the risk of becoming stagnant in your faith, of falling back into sinful habits and temptations that you had once overcome through prayer. When a relationship turns sour, often a main cause is poor communication. So too with us and God. Do you feel stagnant in your faith or distant from God? Do you pray?
5. A habit of prayer brings peace and contentment. We live in a sin-filled world. Sorrows and troubles abound. So how do we combat sadness, disappointments, fears, slanders, and hurt? When we cry out to our Father, He offers us peace that transcends our understanding. This is one of the richest blessings of our faith. Are you experiencing this blessing? Do you pray?
Ryle says, "In every journey there must be a first step." If you desire to become a more prayerful person, take time today and go somewhere quiet, shut the door and pray aloud that God would give you the grace and strength you need to develop a habit of prayer. Then be encouraged--God greatly desires you to be in regular prayer with him--if we ask, seek and knock, He will open the door for us to a richer prayer life.
*J. C. Ryle (1816-1900) was a prominent writer, preacher, and Anglican clergyman in nineteenth-century Britain.