Prayer is like marriage. Mix discipline and spontaneity in both. I plan times to talk to Noël (Pizza Hut Thursday noon) and we talk without a plan. Without discipline spontaneity gets thin and wavers. Without spontaneity discipline gets cold and burdensome. Daniel prayed three times a day in a set place (Daniel 6:10). Is that why he was given spontaneous visions?
Discipline does not mean lack of earnestness. Mary Slessor pleaded in her letters from Africa, “Pray for us here. Pray in a business-like fashion, earnestly, definitely statedly.” I suppose she prayed that way too. Is that why she could write,
My life is one long daily, hourly, record of answered prayer . . . I can testify with a full and often wonder-stricken awe that I believe God answers prayer . . . I have proved during long decades while alone, as far as man’s help and presence are concerned, that God answers prayer . . . It is the very atmosphere in which I live and breathe and have my being, and it makes life glad and free and a million times worth living. (Mary Slessor of Calabar, p. 293)
I think I have been conscious of more answers to prayer this year than any year in my life. A few examples (beside the dozens that surround preparation and preaching):
- Last June we went out on a limb in planning the praise procession. We didn’t know if people would go for it or if the weather would work or how the hundreds of details would all come together. We hoped against hope for 600 people—a phenomenal response we thought. But to get ready the staff met two hours every morning to pray the week before. We’d never prayed so much together in one week. The result was a magnificent day of sunshine, a positive attitude, and 1,000 people, according to the police!
- Two Sunday’s ago we prayed in the morning service that Burt Koppendrayer’s kidney stone would pass and that the last 10% of their missionary funds would come so they could leave in two weeks for language training. Burt called me that next Thursday to say that both things happened on that day. They are at 100%! Keep praying. Now the battle is really on.
- I belong to the executive committee of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Our application for tax-exempt status had been delayed for queries earlier this year. This threatened the very existence of the group, since many gifts had been given assuming we would get the nod from the IRS. The prayer alert went out and the council prayed in a concerted way over the same texts of Scripture each Saturday night across the country. We had to decide the future of the organization on Monday, November 25, but had no word from the IRS. Some of us in leadership felt the burden tremendously and prayed fervently. On the Friday before that Monday—the latest it could possibly come—the letter from the IRS arrived giving us the green light.
Watch for the details of prayer week. May the Lord use it to make us all like Mary Slessor: “Praying is harder work than doing, at least I find it so, but the dynamic lies that way to advance the Kingdom.”
Unstoppable on our knees,