“To the average Christian the command ‘pray without ceasing’ is simply a needless and impossible life of perfection. Who can do it? We can get to heaven without it. To the true believer, on the contrary, it holds out the promise of the highest happiness, of a life crowned by all the blessings that can be brought down on souls through his intercession. And as he perseveres, it becomes increasingly his highest aim upon earth, his highest joy, his highest experience of the wonderful fellowship with the holy God.” Andrew Murray
As we each face many challenges and blessings in life, it is critical that we put prayer first in our schedules. I sense in my heart that we are entering into very deep waters. We always have enough time for the things we value. The greatest key to success in the Christian life is to put God and prayer first. Too many things in life are crying out for our attention. Everything we do must be done through the power of prayer.
We must learn to put prayer first on a daily basis. It is something we have to give our utmost attention to. The enemy is TOO clever, and he will try to steal our time. This is where he will resist us the most. We need to have a vision for prayer. Vision determines priorities, and our priorities determine our destinies. Put prayer as a high priority in your life.
In Acts 12:5 we read about fervent prayer for Peter by the church. They prayed with intense earnestness. Peter was in trouble! The word “earnestness” in the Greek means “stretched-out-edly”. Their souls were stretched out with intense earnestness toward God. It was like a runner using every nerve and muscle stretched out toward the goal. Jesus also prayed with intense earnestness in Luke 22:44 so that even his sweat became as drops of blood. God desires that we learn to prioritize prayer and seek to be a man or woman of intense earnestness in intercession. The Bible speaks about devoting ourselves to prayer in Colossians 4:2. The Amplified Bible says:
“Be earnest and unwearied and steadfast in your prayer life, being both alert and intent in your praying with thanksgiving.”
Dorthy Haskins in her book A Prayer Guide to Prayer tells about an excellent concert violinist who was asked the secret of her mastery of the violin. She responded, “Planned neglect.” She explained how so many things demanded her time. After breakfast, she would do her normal duties such as straightening her room, cleaning and several other things that seemed necessary. She would then turn to her violin after finishing all her work. But she was unable to accomplish what she should on the violin. So she reversed the order, and neglected everything until her practice period on the violin was completed. That was the secret to her success. How often we are like this violinist and put prayer at the end of what needs to be done. It can be last on our list! It must be first. It must be prioritized in our lives, if we want to have a life dedicated to God’s glory.
We must learn to put prayer first now and not wait. The world is getting worse with each passing day as crime and terrorism increase. With earthquakes killing thousands, financial difficulties, unusual weather patterns, plus lawlessness, famines and needs everywhere – if ever there was a need for prayer, it is now. But you and I don’t have to wait for an emergency situation in our city. We already live in an emergency situation – God has sounded the alarm – Millions do not yet know Christ. The hour is urgent! Throughout history, there were praying individuals who knew the seriousness of the hour and prioritized prayer every single day. Let’s look at some of these examples from history.
“Christ, who in this as well as in other things is our example, spent many whole nights in prayer. His custom was to pray much. He had His habitual place to pray. Many long seasons of praying made up His history and character. Paul prayed day and night. Daniel’s three daily prayers took time away from other important interests. David’s morning, noon, and night praying was doubtless on many occasions very long and involved. While we have no specific account of the time these Bible saints spent in prayer, the indications are that they devoted much time to prayer, and on some occasions long seasons of praying were their custom.” E. M. Bounds
These prayer warriors put prayer first in their everyday life. Even though some of them had ill health, busy lives or were very old, they still were able to put prayer first.
- 84-year-old Anna – She was very old but prayed and fasted night and day for decades. See Luke 2:36.
- David Brainerd – He spent whole days in prayer as he cried out for the salvation of the Native Americans.
- E. M. Bounds – He was an eager and intense man of prayer. He prayed with faith that believed God for the impossible and wrote many outstanding books on prayer.
- John Hyde – He was a missionary to India who paid a high price for prayer. He spent thirty days and nights in intercession and was ranked as a mad enthusiast in prayer.
We influence others as we, ourselves, spend time in prayer. Our short prayers are effective when we have prayed long ones. We must learn to prevail with God just as these men and women did. Jacob had victory because he wrestled all night with God. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, the Bible exhorts us to “Pray without ceasing”.
The Cost of Putting Prayer First
Those who pray receive a blessing for now and for eternity that far outweighs the cost. They learn the secret to a joyful and strategic life. But choosing to prioritize prayer has a price tag. It will cost us to put prayer at the top of our responsibilities, but it is well worth the effort. It will cost us:
- Time – We must devote ourselves to prayer. We may have to give up other good things in order to do the best thing. See Colossians 4:2.
- Energy – Prayer can be hard work and very intense physically. It will take concentrated energy to pray. God may call us to pray in the middle of the night. See Isaiah 64:7.
- A Pure Motive – Prayer is often done in secret. We need to have a pure motive when we pray. God will reward us openly. See Matthew 6:6.
- Faith – We don’t often see results immediately when we pray, and this takes great faith. But God does answer prayer in a powerful way if we persevere in faith. See Hebrews 11:1, 6.
Let’s rise to a new level in putting prayer and intercession first. May God help us to keep it central in our busy life. May He give us the grace to put prayer first, not only when emergency situations arise in our own personal lives, but also as we live in the emergency situation we all face in the end times. I pray that God will encourage your heart to count the cost and say, “yes” to the ministry of intercession. I make a conscious choice to put prayer first every day of my life. I pray that you do the same.
Here at the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, every year the staff renews their commitment to prayer. Each year they make a Sacred Trust before the Lord as to what hours they will spend in the prayer room. They actually put it in their weekly schedules. Prayer and intimacy with God is central at IHOP and all work springs from that central commitment. Full-time staff spend 24 hours weekly in the prayer room. Although a high commitment, God gives grace to pray. You may want to make a Sacred Trust before the Lord as to how much time you will block out in your schedule for prayer, worship, and time with God. This helps you keep prayer first in your life.
“They may start from different points, and travel by different roads, but they converge to one point: they are one in prayer. To them, God is the center of attraction, and prayer is the path that leads to God. These men do not pray occasionally – not a little or at odd times. But, they pray in such a way that their prayers enter into and shape their very character. They pray so as to affect their own lives and the lives of others, and to cause the history of the church to influence the current of the times. They spend much time in prayer, not because they watch the shadow of the dial or the hands on the clock, but because it is to them so momentous and engaging a business that they can scarcely quit.” E. M. Bounds