I understand that prayer is not just a matter of duty and lists, something that we can check off each day that we have done. I know this. However, if we don’t start there, if we don’t discipline ourselves unto it as a matter of duty, we will not break through to the power of it. Without the call of duty we are not held to it. We are beset and beleaguered on every side: plagued from within by the internal enemies of laziness, sloth, forgetfulness, neglect, busyness, self-aggrandizement and self-dependence, faintheartedness, faithlessness, presumption – and the list could go on; and besieged from without by the external enemies of busyness, amusements, worldly attractions and necessities – both legitimate and otherwise—the lure of things, the desire for success, distractions and time-devourers of every kind.
Let us not juxtapose prayer and duty, the one against the other. Duty, of which lists is a part, certainly must be coupled with inspiration and the leading and empowerment of the Spirit. But is not the faithful keeping of duty itself a deep and empowered work of the Spirit? Indeed! For with such a host of weaponry arrayed against us even out of the treachery of our own hearts, it is nothing short of the miraculous, supernatural power of God.
True prayer, even though goaded by duty, is a work of the heart, a sacrifice of love. It is, first of all, the manifestation of the Spirit in our lives. Duty may act as the turning of the key to start the engine, but the Spirit of God is the One behind the duty, drawing us to it. Sometimes we just need something to start the engine. Communion with God, faith in the promises of God, burden and care for others are the parts that keep the engine running. May God protect us from falling prey to the insidious, subtle lies of the enemy that keep us from prayer, being tempted to think that prayer borne out of duty is not true prayer. Regardless of how flat your prayers may seem, however duty-bound, pray on! God's hearing ear is not dependent on our feelings; His powerful arm is not made impotent by our dubious certainties about prayer. But the intervention of Heaven is affected by prayerlessness. So use duty to your advantage; get the engine going, and pray.