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October 1, 1999

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  • Praying... "time spent"

Praying... "time spent"

Question:
What can you tell me about "time" spent in prayer ? I have read and heard for years how people pray some times five hours straight in a row. I am not doubting that exactly. I just do not know how one can do that. Is that kind of time necessary to get God to hear one, or to fellowship with Him at one sitting? I am asking. Years ago, we used to try to pray for long periods. we would even have a clock which we tried to pray by. After what seemed like hours, we would discover we had only prayed fifteen minutes. Today I pray off and on all during the day, quietly most of the time...then say morning prayers and evening prayers, I think my thoughts to the Lord all during each day and ask Him questions in my solitude. But 'prayer' for hours, I don't think I can do that...for one thing I am a quiet type of person and I frankly can't think of that much to say even to the Lord Almighty. If I am needing to pray long I surely want to be able to for I want to be obedient in any case. I feel certain that others might be feeling much the same way. In my younger Christian days I do remember spending much time in prayer and weeping before the Lord but in those days I was in a lot of sorrow, pain and grief..and had great needs in prayer. Now the Lord has quieted my spirit and I do rest in Him much of the time. I have tears but I usually get tears praying for others salvations and the sadness I see in situations around the world. Please let me know how you see prayer and the length of prayer. How should it be from The Word of God ?

Answer:
This question of "praying for hours" always used to baffle me, too. And there would be "prayer warriors" (as differentiated from modern-day "prayer warfare") who would spend "hours" in prayer. And even now I must admit that I wonder about it. If such a person is truly a Believer into Jesus Christ, and they are claiming to spend "five hours" in prayer, I do not claim to know what is in their heart, and how/what they are praying.

I have never -purposely- gone into a room, gotten on my knees and "prayed" for five hours. The only time I engaged in lengthy prayer was the night my wife took off. In that case I was in my bed, on my back, eight hours of sleepless night, as most of the communication was from the Lord to me; first of all, as I was made aware of all the "knick knacks" of sin in my life; then, as I confessed them; and finally as the Lord was assuring me and making me aware of certain things about my life, marriage and ministry.

Let's look at Scripture. As we do so, perhaps a better understanding of -what- "prayer" -is- might emerge.

We have the case of Solomon praying to dedicate the new temple (1Kg8:22,2Chr6:12) as he stood on a special elevated platform for the purpose before all the people. When we look at the words of that prayer, it is obviously a "corporate" prayer. A prayer which Solomon composed and prayed, to -lead- the people jointly in prayer to God.

There is Elijah before the prophets of Baal and Asherah, to call down fire on the sacrifice. (1Kg18:36) Again, it was a "public" prayer, more for the benefit of the hearers (unbelievers) standing around him.

When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead He prays, specifically, -explaining- his prayer as He prays. "Father, I thank You that You heard Me. And I know that you always hear Me, but because of the crowd standing around, I said it, that they might believe that You sent Me. (Jn11:41-42) In other words, this "prayer" was different from His usual "praying" to the Father. This was a specific prayer, but His relationship with the Father was an "always" relationship.

This "always" concept goes along with Paul's words "pray without ceasing". (1Th5:17) The expression "without ceasing" means "without intermission". Exactly what it says; never stopping; or, always praying.

This kind of prayer, obviously, has to be something different than what people usually ascribe as being "prayer". If we were "on our knees" with hands "folded" 24 hours a day, we would never eat, sleep, work and do any of those things that make up life.

The error in most people's idea of what "prayer" is, is that they think it is "people praying -to- God...uttering WORDS -to- God." And so, if a person prays for "five hours", that means they are -talking- for five hours. And like you, I don't have that much to say.

A lot of people become expert at -making- prayer. They have learned to spin out words, and they -think- they are praying. But the 'preacher' exhorts, "Guard your feet when you go to the house of God, and draw near to hear, more than to give a sacrifice, as do the fools. For they do not know that they are doing evil. Do not be hasty with your mouth, and do not let your heart hurry to bring forth a word before God. For God is in Heaven, and you are on earth; on account of this, let your words be few." (Ec5:1-2) According to this, it is possible to be doing "evil" by talking too much before God. Notice Jesus' words on the matter, that the "heathen" are the ones who do "vain repetitions" and think they are heard because they talk a lot. (Mt6:7-8) And furthermore He condemns the religious ones who are "hypocrites" as they pray to "be seen" (Mt6:5) and in pretense "pray long".(Lk20:47)

So, if many words and long prayers are condemned, what does Paul mean by "pray without ceasing"? As Believers we are "not in the flesh, but in the [Holy] Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you." (Rom8:9a) If we are living in the Spirit, "let us also walk in the Spirit". (Gal5:25) We are exhorted to "be filled by the Spirit". (Eph5:18) This word "filled" means to be filled "to the brim" -continually-. This is what Jesus said to the woman of Samaria, "..a fountain of water..springing up into everlasting life." (Jn4:14)

This [Holy] Spirit Who indwells and fills us, also is our "Agent" for "prayer". As we have already noted, we don't have "enough words" to say to God. Paul agrees, "For we do not know what we should pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes on our behalf with groanings that cannot be uttered." (Rom8:26) And into this equation is also Jesus Christ (vs27) Who knows us body/soul/spirit. (Heb4:12-13) You see, -this- is the fulfillment of Jesus' prayer, "..as You are in Me, Father, and I in You, that they may be one in Us.." (Jn17:21)

Prayer is "oneness" with God. A person who is truly a Believer into Jesus Christ is "one" with the Father. We have the "mind of Christ" (1Cor2:16) through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

So, what is the 'nature' of this prayer? Let us consider the earthly example God created for us. If our relationship with God is like that of the bride with the husband (Eph5:32), what is a good marriage relationship like? Does the wife constantly -talk- TO the husband? Some husbands think so. -smile- But, no. Nor does the husband constantly talk to the wife. A lot of time is simply spent "in the company" of each other. They do things together. They are -with- each other. It's like the commercial that's running right now, I think--selling detergent to clean the husband's -shirt- that he wears "all the time". She is walking past the open door and pauses briefly to watch him puttering at what he is doing, and as she then continues to walk on past, he turns, knowing that she was just there. Not a word was spoken...but there is "love" there...as being depicted.

When a wife CONSTANTLY TALKS to her husband, she is often considered a "nag". I fear that the notion most people have of proper prayer to God is this "nagging". This is why we spoke recently of "enter into your room and shutting your door, pray to your Father in secret". (Mt6:6) And I suggested, when doing that; set up a comfortable place with good lighting, and open the Bible, SHUT THE MOUTH, and READ. Elijah had been doing "exploits" as he prayed publicly before the prophets of Baal and Asherah. But when he was at the place of the "still small voice" (1Kg19:12), it was God Who came and spoke -to- Elijah. And that is where there was fellowship.

And then, as we leave that 'room' and go about our daily living, we continue along with that "mind of Christ" (1Cor2:16,Phil2:5), looking "at each other" through those "open doors"...living in the 'presence' of the Lord in our lives.

Living a "LIFE OF PRAYER" like that... we can then obey "..whatever you do, do all things to the glory of God." (1Cor10:31b)

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