Do I have to pray every day? Many of us wrestle with some form of this question throughout our Christian lives. If we ask in duty to earn God’s blessings, the answer is No. Christians should take the words earn, merit, and deserve out of our vocabulary when speaking of our acceptance in Christ.
If we ask in desperation, wanting to experience God’s presence to strengthen our faith, empower us to obey, and deepen our joy in him, the answer is Yes. We don’t ask, “Is it my duty to breathe every day?” We breathe every day to survive! There is a place for duty in the Christian life, but that should not be what drives us to pray. An intimate relationship with God will never thrive in an atmosphere dominated by a sense of duty.
If the main things in life that we desire are health, wealth, and attractive kids, then we won’t feel desperate spiritually. If we long to love God with all our hearts and experience him and grow in Christlikeness, we should feel daily desperation driving us to prayer.
I don’t know many better examples of desperate, earnest prayer than David in Psalm 63, where we watch his mental knowledge of God become heart experience.
Prayer Involves Thirst
“God’s upholding sustains our clinging.”
This was probably written while David was running for his life from his king or from his own son Absalom. Often it takes hardship in life to expose our spiritual neediness. In Psalm 63, David prays amidst these circumstances. But merely going through the motions of prayer is not enough for David. He is not content to say, “I checked the box today on having my daily time with God.” There is a thirst in his prayer to connect with God, comparable to a parched man living in a dry desert longing to connect with water. Is this how we call out to God in prayer?
He remembers that there had been times he worshiped God so intensely that he could “see” the glory of God with eyes of faith. He meditates in prayer on God’s character and works.
David then remembers that God’s saving love is better than the best life he can imagine. He would rather be in a cave and know God’s love than in a palace and be distant from God. It’s interesting that in this entire prayer, David doesn’t ask for any physical blessings (not that there’s anything wrong with that). He doesn’t ask to be restored to the city of Jerusalem or to have physical peace or prosperity. He only wants to worship the Lord and experience him. These are the desires at the forefront of his mind and heart. Is that true of us?
Prayer Involves Satisfaction
As David begins to remind himself of the stability and steadfastness of God’s love, he begins to praise God afresh. In Psalm 63:5 David is saying that truly focusing on God in prayer until our heart starts to worship is like eating a spiritual rib-eye with all the flavorful fat. When he can’t sleep at night, he turns to worship instead of worry, so that his heart will be filled with joy.
He reminds himself of times of past deliverance. He feels like a tiny chick, warm and safe, hiding under its mother’s wings. David has a sense of God’s nearness and protection, not just an academic knowledge of it. This is one of the greatest joys in all of life. It is worth daily persevering in prayer to experience more of it.
Prayer Involves Clinging
Many of us think about salvation in a static way: I trusted in Jesus. You can’t lose your salvation. It’s God’s job to bless me. I’ll try not to get into any “major” sin. Now I can just leave my spiritual life on cruise control. All will be well. The Bible never teaches this.
Rather God exhorts us to an active, living faith. He expects us to have a prayer life that is desperate and clinging. This does not imply a life of prayer whereby we work hard in our own strength to twist God’s arm into blessing us. Nothing could be further from the truth. His upholding sustains our clinging.
Prayer Involves the Cross
“An intimate relationship with God will never thrive in an atmosphere dominated by a sense of duty.”
We can often feel that daily desperate prayer is about a duty we have to maintain to build up a spiritual resume so that God will be good to us. Biblically, we should see ourselves as weak, needy, and still filled with much indwelling sin (Romans 7:15). If this is true, we should have no confidence in ourselves that we will live faithful to Christ each day. We must wake and beg him to fill us full of the Holy Spirit.
The point is not to pray “hard enough” so that God will condescend to answer our prayers. Rather the point is to linger in prayer long enough to preach truth to ourselves about God’s strength and salvation. The best way to strengthen our grip on Christ is to focus on how tightly Christ has grabbed hold of us at the cross.