The world is sometimes a cold place. Problems and difficulties abound even in the life of the most faithful saint. I have often pointed out that as Christians we did not have some impenetrable force field surrounding us, keeping us from all of the ups and downs and trials and tribulations of this world. Struggles find their way into our lives just like they do the lives of those who do not know God. Though we are followers of Christ, we too have to contend with financial burdens, family situations, health problems, obstacles at work, etc. For some, the everyday, ongoing drudgery of just making ends meet is hard to bear. I read a sign the other day that said, "Just when we make the ends meet, they move the ends." That seems very true at times, doesn't it? Yes, we live in a world of care. Thank God for the power of prayer! Prayer calls us from the cares of this world and brings us to the very throne of God where the solution to our greatest problems can be realized. The question is, will we answer the call? Jesus did!
Jesus And Prayer: -- Jesus lived in the same world of cares, concerns, and complications in which we live. The cares of the world did not exhibit themselves for the first time in the twenty-first century; they existed in the world in which Jesus lived. Sometimes Jesus grew weary (Jno. 4:6). Sometimes the demands that Jesus faced were overwhelming. In the first chapter of Mark, we read of how Jesus amazed people with His astonishing doctrine and miraculous power,and how, as a result, His fame spread throughout the region of Galilee. The record tells us that after Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law, the entire city was gathered together before the door of the house where He was located (Mk. 1:33). Jesus then proceeded for the next several hours of the night healing many that were sick (Mk. 1:34). Where did Jesus get the strength and endurance to continue in this way throughout His ministry? When things got a little overwhelming, what did Jesus do? Listen:
"And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed" (Mk. 1:35).
Was this an isolated event in the life of Christ? It was a pattern (Mk. 6:45,46; Lk. 6:12; 22:39-41). Jesus was a man of prayer. Though He was the Son of God, from time to time He needed to go to a place of solitude, away from the crowds and even away from His beloved disciples, and be alone with His Father. Now let me ask you, if Jesus Himself found it needed and necessary to find relief from the cares of the world through the avenue of prayer should not we, His inferior followers, find the same necessary? Jesus answered the call of prayer. Will you answer that call?
Let Us Pray: -- There is no better habit that you can develop than that of prayer. Daily prayer is food to the soul and in this sinful world in which we live, full of care and satiated with sin, prayer is a must. If you knew of some way by which you could obtain deliverance from trouble, strength in weakness, guidance in times of crisis, comfort when lonely, peace in the midst of confusion and solutions for perplexing questions, would you not want to know the what, the who, and the how of that way? That way is prayer. Sadly prayer is a blessing neglected by far too many Christians. In fact, rare is the Christian who takes full advantage of this power and few are the congregations that could really be described as a house of prayer. In a survey taken of 40,000 members of the church of Christ a few years back, the lack of prayer on the part of many Christians became obvious. One of the questions on the survey was, "Do you sincerely pray at least once per day?" Fewer than ten percent of these 40,000 said "yes." That's astonishing. How would you be able to answer that question? Do you regularly find time in your busy schedule to do what Jesus did and find a solitary place and pray? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encouraged those who would be citizens of the kingdom to go into the closet to pray (Matt. 6:6). That doesn't mean that we have to go into a literal closet to pray. Though I suppose a literal closet would work fine, that is not really what Jesus is saying. What Jesis is encouraging us as His disciples to do is find time to separate ourselves from all of the hustle and bustle of life, find a place where we can be all alone with our Father and pour out our heart to Him in prayer. We should do this often, even daily. Our burdens will seem lighter, our temptations will become less tempting, and the cares of the world will not seem so overwhelming when we talk to our God about them. Peter once said, "Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you" (1 Pet. 5:6). One lady said, "Every evening I turn worries over to God. He's going to be up all night anyway."
Prayer Helps Us With Sin: -- It's hard to live the life of a Christian. Those who say it is always easy to be a Christian probably have a low view of Christianity. We need God's help. The Devil will cast every kind of temptation imaginable our way, but prayer can help us with this. Jesus told His disciples to watch and pray that they enter not into temptation (Matt. 26:41). Prayer has the power to protect us against the wiles of the Devil. It's no wonder that after Paul admonishes us to put on the whole armor of God, he encourages us to pray (Eph. 6:19). Someone once prayed this prayer: "Dear God, so far today I've done all right. I haven't gossiped. I haven't lost my temper. I haven't been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent. I'm very thankful for that. But in a few minutes, God, I'm going to get out of bed, and from then on I'm probably going to need a lot more help. Amen."
Needing help is a real part of prayer. Don't try to fight against sin and temptation alone. Turn to God and ask Him for help. The Hebrew writer encourages us along these lines, assuring us that before God's throne we can find mercy and grace to help in times of need (Heb. 4:16). Don't feel too macho to ask for God's helping hand. Remember, even our Savior turned to God for strength.
Taking Advantage Of Our Advantage: -- We should never forget what a blessing prayer is. Prayer is a spiritual blessing reserved for those who are in Christ (Eph. 1:3). That sinners not in a relationship with God have no access to God through prayer is clearly taught in the Scriptures (Psa. 66:18; Prov. 15:29; Isa. 1:15; 59:1,2; Jno. 9:31; 1 Pet. 3:12). Addressing God through the avenue of prayer is a blood-bought privilege paid for by Jesus (Heb. 10:19-22). What a shame it is that we do not always take advantage of this power to which we have access. As I mentioned earlier, we don't have a force field that prevents us from experiencing pain and hardships and the cares of the world, but we do have a Father who loves us and will help us when we need it most. We merely need to ask for that help. I came across this illustration that makes the point:
The Big Rock: -- A little boy was spending his Saturday morning playing in his sandbox. He had with him his box of cars and trucks, his plastic pail, and a shiny, red plastic shovel. In the process of creating roads and tunnels in the soft sand, he discovered a large rock in the middle of the sandbox. The lad dug around the rock, managing to dislodge it form the dirt. With no little bit of struggle, he pushed and nudged the rock across the sandbox by using his feet. (He was a very small boy and the rock was very huge). When the boy got the rock to the edge of the sandbox, however, he found that he couldn't roll it up and over the little wall. Determined, the little boy shoved, pushed, and pried, but every time he thought he had made some progress, the rock tipped and fell back into the sandbox. The little boy grunted, struggled, pushed, shoved -- but his only reward was to have the rock roll back, smashing his chubby fingers. Finally he burst into tears of frustration. All this time the boy's father watched from his living room window as the drama unfolded. At the moment the tears fell, a large shadow fell across the boy and the sandbox. It was the boy's father. Gently but firmly he said, "Son, why didn't you use all the strength that you had available?" Defeated, the boy sobbed back, "But I did, Daddy, I did! I used all the strength that I had!" "No, son," corrected the father kindly. "You didn't use all the strength you had. You didn't ask me." With that the father reached down, picked up the rock,and removed it from the sandbox.
Are you taking advantage of all your strength? If you are relying on yourself to overcome the cares of the world, you are wasting strength, and you are fighting a hopeless battle. Let's learn from Jesus and avail ourselves of the power that comes when we take advantage of that sweet hour of prayer.
By Don Wright in Truth Magazine, Vol. 48, No.13, July 1, 2004.
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