My old pastor Sinclair Ferguson used to say that the goal of discipleship was to do the spiritual things naturally, and the natural things spiritually. I love that.
If you’re going to plant a church, everyone and their Aunt Susie is going to ask you to keep them in your prayers.
SO, YOU’RE NOT A PRAYER WARRIOR?
Now, I’ve never considered myself particularly gifted or burdened with intercessory prayer. Transparently, cultivating a robust personal prayer life is something that I’ve always struggled with, and remains an area of weakness for me. It’s far easier for me to pray passionately in a small group or in a worship service than in private.
But whether you like it or not, the people in your church and your community are going to sincerely ask you to pray.
I’m never going to be Brother Lawrence or St Francis of Assisi or Teresa of Avila. And I don’t think I’m being called to be those people. But I am called to help people learn how to do the spiritual things naturally and the natural things spiritually. And therefore I’m called to pray, and model prayer, as a natural part of my life.
So what do I do?
I pray right on the spot.
CULTIVATING A SPONTANEOUS APPROACH
I get 2-5 text messages each day asking for prayer. Instead of saying “I’ll pray” (and failing to follow through half the time), I reply and say “I’m praying right now.” And then I stop what I’m doing and pray. Not for long. Just for focused 60-90 seconds. I bump into people around town, and they ask me to pray for them. Instead of committing to do it later, I do it right on the spot if at all possible. When believing guests are in our home, I’ve begun praying for them before they depart—meeting the wise challenge of my wife.
Sometimes people begin a conversation with me by saying “I really need prayer.” But that’s really just their way of saying that they want to tell me every nuance of their conundrum for minutes that could easily turn into hours. You probably don’t have hours. I don’t. So I’ve learned to take seriously and honor their initial request. I hear the gist of their problem, ask for relevant details to guide their description toward concrete and clear prayer needs, and then I sometimes even interrupt people and say “Let’s go to the Lord Jesus with this, why don’t we?” And so we pray.
HABITS ARE HABIT-FORMING
On-the-spot prayer reinforces to people and to me that interruptions for prayer are not interruptions, but simply a natural aspect of life in Christ. It keeps one from making empty, pious promises about intentions to pray later. And it emphasizes to people that the power is not in the nuanced description of the need, but in the simple taking of the need to Jesus. Best of all, the discipline of spontaneous prayer forms a habit of spontaneous prayer.
The unspiritual, natural thing to do is merely complain—to yourself and to other people.
The “spiritual”, unnatural thing to do is to lock yourself in a closet for hours on end fulfilling the obligations you’ve made to pray for people.
But the natural thing done spiritually is to sense a need and bring it before Jesus.
And the spiritual thing done naturally is to stop what you’re doing and without any fuss, simply tell Jesus what’s on your heart.
Pray right on the spot.
Get these daily posts in your email inbox.
You might also like: