When it comes to prayer I suspect most of us have a nagging but carefully concealed inferiority complex. We have read, and genuinely rejoice in the lives of the mighty prayer warriors through the years who were able to spend three, four or more hours a day praying down God’s blessing upon the world and the church. They were colossal pray-ers. We, not so much. Whilst not wishing to let ourselves off the hook, it was consoling to read a quote from church historian Michael Reeves. In his little gem, ‘Enjoy Your Prayer Life’, he writes that most of us have heard the apocryphal story of Martin Luther, who apparently when asked one evening what he’d be doing the next day, replied, “Work, work from early till late. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Tales like this turn our bones to jelly (he continues) because we know we’re not like that. So to prove we are all sinners, and therefore naturally awful at prayer, here’s a real quote from Luther that will comfort you. At perhaps the busiest time of his busy life he wrote to his friend Philipp Melanchthon: “You extol me so much … Your high opinion of me shames and tortures me, since – unfortunately – I sit here like a fool and hardened in leisure, pray little, do not sigh for the church of God … In short I should be ardent in spirit, but I am ardent in the flesh, in lust, laziness, leisure, and sleepiness … Already eight days have passed in which I have written nothing, in which I have not prayed or studied; this is partly because of temptations of the flesh, partly because I am tortured by other burdens.”’ 1
Weakness and Power
It surely is of great significance, that when our Saviour taught us we should ‘pray and not give up’2 he chose the feeblest and least significant of people of his day as an example – a weak, vulnerable and yet persistent widow. Prayer, we are reassured, is for those who admit they are pathetically weak and yet know where to go for help. Eminent pastor and author Andrew Murray wrote, “God rules the world by the prayers of his saints”. We might be tempted to accuse him of exaggeration were it not for the mighty effects of the saints’ prayers clearly revealed to us in the book of Revelation.3
The curtain is drawn aside and we are shown the literally earth-shaking consequences of our prayers and petitions, feeble though they may have seemed to ourselves.
Come in your weakness
These are momentous days. It undoubtedly is time to shake off our reluctance, mock humility, unbelief – or whatever else hinders us from joining our pathetic weakness with Divine Omnipotence. Commentator Thomas Torrance encourages us: “More potent, more powerful than all the dark and mighty powers let loose in the world, more powerful than anything else, is the power of prayer – set ablaze by the fire of God and cast upon the earth.”
It is vital we grasp the empowering truth that the future is not with the world leaders but with our prayer hearing, prayer answering Redeemer, through whom we are able to shake and shape our world for God and for good.
Listen to Mike’s message on this here
1 Reeves, Michael. Enjoy Your Prayer Life . (Luther’s Works, vol. 48, p. 256) ; 2 Luke 18:1-10; 3 Revelation 8:3-5