Time to Pray
There is such a thing as going back in religion, after making a good confession. Men may run well for a time, like the Galatians, and then turn aside after false teachers. Men may profess loudly, while their feelings are warm, as Peter did; and then, in the hour of trial, deny their Lord. Men may lose their first love, as the Ephesians did. Men may cool down in their zeal to do good, like Mark, the companion of Paul. Men may follow an apostle for a season, and then, like Demas, go back to the world.
It is a miserable thing to be a backslider. A stranded ship, a broken–winged eagle, a garden overrun with weeds, a harp without strings, a church in ruins—all these are sad sights; but a backslider is a sadder sight still. Of all the unhappy things that can befall a believer, it is the worst.
Now, what is the cause of most backsliding? I believe, as a general rule, one of the chief causes is neglect of private prayer. Bibles read without prayer, sermons heard without prayer, marriages contracted without prayer, journeys undertaken without prayer, homes chosen without prayer, friendships formed without prayer, the daily act of private prayer itself hurried over or gone through without heart—these are the kind of downward steps by which many a Christian descend to a condition of spiritual paralysis, or reaches a point where God allows him to have a tremendous fall.
This is the process which forms the lingering Lots, the unstable Samsons, the wife–idolizing Solomons, the inconsistent Asas, the pliable Jehoshapats, the over–careful Marthas—of whom so many are found in the Church of Christ. Often the simple history of such cases is this—they became careless about private prayer.
We may be sure that men fall in private long before they fall in public. They are backsliders on their knees long before they backslide openly in the eyes of the world. Like Peter, they first disregard the Lord’s warning to watch and pray; and then, like Peter, their strength is gone, and in the hour of trial they deny their Lord.
You cannot excuse yourself by saying that you do not know how to pray. Prayer is the simplest act in all religion. It is simply speaking to God. It needs neither learning, nor wisdom, nor book–knowledge to begin it. It needs nothing but heart and will. The weakest infant can cry when he is hungry. The poorest beggar can hold out his hand for alms, and does not wait to find fine words. The most ignorant man will find something to say to God, if he only has mind.
You cannot excuse yourself by saying that you have no convenient place to pray in. Our Lord prayed on a mountain; Peter on the house top; Isaac in the field; Jonah in the fish’s belly. Any place may become a closet, an oratory, and a Bethel, and be to us the presence of God.
You cannot excuse yourself by saying that you have no time. There is plenty of time, if you will only employ it. Time may be short, but time is always long enough for prayer. Daniel had all the affairs of a kingdom on his hands, and yet he prayed three times a day. David was a ruler over a mighty nation, and yet he says, “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray and moan aloud; and he will hear my voice”, (Ps. 55: 17). When time is really wanted, time can always be found.
The fact is, you cannot afford not to pray! Your heart will sometimes say, We have had family prayers; what harm can there be if we leave private prayers undone? Your body will sometimes say, You are unwell, or sleepy, or weary, you need not pray. Your mind will sometimes say, You have important business to attend to today; cut short your prayers. Look on all such suggestions as coming direct from the Devil. I do not maintain that prayers should always be of the same length, but I do say, let no excuse make you give up prayer. It is not for nothing that Paul said, “Persevere in prayer”, and “pray unceasingly”, (Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5: 17). He did not mean that men should be always on their knees, but he did mean that our prayers should be like the continual burnt offering—a thing steadily persevered in every day. Prayer should be like seed time and harvest, like Summer and Winter—a thing that should unceasingly come round at regular seasons. It should be like the fire on the altar—not always consuming sacrifices, but never completely going out. Never forget that you may tie together morning and evening devotions by an endless chain of short ejaculatory prayers throughout the day. Even in company, or business or in the very streets, you may be silently sending up little winged messengers to God, as Nehemiah did in the very presence of Artaxerxes, (Neh. 2: 4). And never think that time is wasted which is given to God. A Christian never finds he is a loser in the long run by persevering in prayer.
It is essential to your soul’s health to make praying a part of the business of every waking hour of your life. Just as you allot time to eating, sleeping and business, so also allot time to prayer. Choose your own hours and seasons. At the very least, speak with God in the morning, before you speak with the world; and speak with God at night, after you have done with the world. But settle it down in your mind that prayer is one of the important things in every day. Do not drive it into a corner. Do not give it the scraps, and leftovers of your day. What ever else you make a business of, make a business of prayer.