One of the meetings that is normally least attended in churches is a prayer meeting.
What is the reason for this lack of desire to pray by believers when prayer is so critical in the life of a believer?
For as long as I have been a believer, I have heard sermons and read books trying to motivate believers to pray more. Often, the carrot-and-stick approach is used to entice believers to pray more with the promise of blessings and benefits for enduring in prayer. Or some will threaten them with unforeseen calamity if they don’t. It is as if one has to come up with a “strategy” to persuade people to pray. I have heard people when they are describing a difficult situation comparing it to praying. You hear them saying “It is as difficult as praying” and yet nothing could be further from the truth.
A wonderful old man of God who died many years ago was asked how much time he spent in prayer. His ministry was well known. He preached some amazing messages that impacted thousands and had a powerful healing ministry that saw many miracles and bodies healed. People would ask him, “How long do you spend in prayer?” Those asking the question were looking for the secret or key to walking in more spiritual power or to being used by God to do great things as this minister did. Many believers think all they need to do is crack the code to get hold of this power.
Like I have confessed in previous writings, I used to be like that. I would go on a fast to try and crack this code to get hold of this power until God who is so merciful and gracious showed me that fallacy of what I was doing.
I think the answer this late old wonderful minister gave to how long he prayed shocked those who heard it, but it revealed something they probably never thought of. The minister replied by saying, “I rarely pray more than 15 minutes at a time, but rarely do 15 minutes go by that I don’t pray.”
The power seekers were probably disappointed in his answer because they expected to hear he prayed for many hours straight, maybe all night through. These are some of the people who believe that results can only come through their efforts. Fifteen minutes at a time seemed uncommitted or barely enough time to get God’s attention. This is why some of us would rather have a prayer chain as a strategy to get God’s attention and mobilise as many people as possible so as to move God. God is not stuck so I don’t know why we talk of moving God.
Please don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with corporate prayer. I believe in corporate prayer, however, it is very important to understand the reason behind the corporate prayer especially a prayer chain. Are we doing this so as to convince God because it is all about numbers? If so, can’t we say that is a sign of unbelief? We think it is about numbers and God can only answer according to numbers.
What the people missed in the minister’s answer was life-changing and liberating if you take some time to think about it. This minister, who had seen God do some amazing healings and miracles in many continents of the earth, was sharing with them an insight into the type of relationship he had with God. When he said, “Rarely do 15 minutes ever go by that I don’t pray,” He helped them see prayer was nothing more than walking in intimacy with God 24/7. He was teaching them spiritual power and authority are not earned or worked for; it happens from a place of relationship. The minister was trying to teach them because of being intimate with God, he was always aware of His presence and the two of them talked all day.
Prayer is an act of intimacy with God. Knowing God is the key to intimacy with Him. People who struggle to pray are people who don’t know God yet. When you know who He is, spending time with Him in prayer becomes a joy, not an endurance test.
One of the most important things about relationship is to understand the person with whom you’re going to have relationship, and that also applies to God. You need to understand the basic nature and character of God in order to have a healthy relationship with Him. Misunderstanding His character and nature is one of the reasons many people don’t have a positive relationship with Him.
Our main problem is that we don’t know God as we should. It’s not God’s fault. He has been intricately involved in the affairs of men and has meticulously recorded His dealings in His Word. He has also given us the Holy Spirit to reveal the great truths of His Word to us. We just haven’t been showing up for class.
The Lord said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). Specifically, the knowledge about the very nature and character of God is missing. Galatians 5:6 says faith works by love. If we really knew the love of God in an intimate way, our faith would work. Peter summed it all up in 2 Peter 1:3 by saying, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” I don’t understand why one would not want to commune with such a Father.
Prayer is communion with God. If you are deeply in love with your spouse or friend, it is very easy to spend hours on a call with them fellowshipping. Similarly, a true knowledge of who God is will make it so pleasurable to spend time with Him in prayer. We don’t know God, hence we struggle to spend time with Him in prayer. Prayer is almost as tough as playing a rugby game and a serious dread to most people because we don’t know Him.
On the other hand, some people struggle with prayer because of wrong teachings in some of our churches. Some of us ministers of the gospel will tell you that you have to fast first in order for God to answer your prayers. As a result, you put your trust not in God, but in your fasting. When you don’t get the desired results, you start saying: “How come I fasted for 21 days and yet I didn’t get the results I wanted?” We need to know what prayer is. There is nothing wrong with fasting, but you should fast with knowledge.
Before Jesus taught what prayer was, He taught what prayer was not. He made the startling statement that hypocrites love to pray (Matthew 6:5). Therefore, prayer in itself doesn’t guarantee spiritual maturity. There are right and wrong ways to pray. I pray that this teaching will help dispel many of the religious notions about prayer that have crept into most people’s thinking on prayer.
Prayer serves many purposes, but we must keep the main thing the main thing. The number one purpose of prayer is communion with God which is birthed from an intimate relationship with the Father.
Most people assume that if the Lord had answered our prayer, then there would be instantaneous results. They suppose that there is no such thing as time or distance in the spiritual realm. But once God moves in the spiritual realm, there is a process that has to occur before we see it manifest in the physical world. Failure to understand this will cause our faith to fail because we think God hasn’t done anything. The waiting period is sustained by our faith. When you pray, “believe that God has answered your prayer” and just wait patiently for it to manifest.
l Dr Doug Mamvura is a graduate of Charis Bible School. Feedback: email@example.com or Twitter @dougmamvura