Some have said that prayer is the mightiest force in the universe. I believe this—at least in my head. I've been praying for a long time, and will continue to pray, that God works that truth thoroughly into my heart and practice. I would wager (if I were a wagering person) that most Christians would probably agree with that statement as I do, yet, like me, struggle with the reality and practice of prayer. We say we believe more than we practice it. James has some hard things to say about that kind of belief or faith: "even the demons believe and tremble," and "faith without works is dead."
Perhaps it's our in-word-only belief in prayer that is the cause of the impotence of the Church. Consequently, we've "lost our saltiness" and our culture has not been well preserved; it is decaying. Putting action to our stated belief will require some disciplined choices. Prayer takes time. I know for me, it is a daily choice to put prayer above tiredness, prayer before the book I'd like to read, prayer before ___________________. What is it for you?
It's not easy talking and listening to One who is invisible. That in itself requires a magnitude of faith. But He has not left us on our own. Not only has He put His own Spirit in our hearts to prompt us and encourage us in prayer, but He has also given us a Book. The Bible is the best prayer handbook in the world. Use it to pray its truths, its passion, its instructions back to God. Each time you read the Bible, let its words form and inform your prayers.
In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Where else do we learn what the will of God is besides the Bible? Search the Bible for the heart of God, for the will of God, and pray it for yourself and those you love. Pray it for those in your church, for your neighbors and friends, for missionaries, for the nations, and for people all around the world.
This morning I read Psalm 126: "Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." (verses 5-6) There are many circumstances of life that cause tears. Use your tears to cry out to God and lay hold of this promise.
From that psalm we learn that prayer is like farming. We sow our prayers with tears. It's hard work. We don't see the results right away. Sometimes spiritual harvests are more like the timber crop here in Washington State that takes fifty years or more to grow before the trees can be harvested. Growing trees isn't the same as growing broccoli or tomatoes or corn. People are likened to trees in Scripture, "trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord." (Psalm 1:3, Jeremiah 17:8, etc.)
But even a seasonal, yearly crop takes time and patient waiting. I'm challenged and encouraged by the word "continually" in Psalm 126:6. Like Jesus' teaching on prayer through the parable of the persistent widow, we must continue to sow our prayers into the lives of others—even with tears. If we sow good seed, the seed of God's Word, the crop will come.
This morning, through tears, I was pleading with God for the promised harvest that brings joy and laughter. Let us all continually press on in prayer, not "lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, rejoicing in hope, . . . continuing steadfastly in prayer" (Romans 12:11-12) until the hoped for harvest. Then our mouths will be filled with laughter and our tongues with singing, and we will say, "The Lord has done great things for us and we are glad!" (Psalm 126:2-3) There's nothing quite like long-awaited answered prayer for bolstering our faith and filling our hearts with joy.
Pray the Word and don't give up. If the answer is long in coming, intensify your efforts in prayer rather than losing heart.