By Martin E. Willoughby, Jr.
I have a friend who knows just how to challenge me in faith walk. He likes to ask me periodically, “How is your prayer life?” Even when I know the question is coming, I still squirm with my response. It is rarely where I would like it to be. It is not because I am trying to fulfill my Christian “To Do” list. Instead, I know how valuable and life-changing a life of prayer is, and yet I easily slip into a habit of failing to properly prioritize the time. English philosopher and statesman Sir Thomas More was once scolded by his friends for wasting so much time going to Mass every day. More replied, “Your reasons for wanting me to stay away from Holy Communion are exactly the ones which cause me to go so often…I have very much important business to handle; I need light and wisdom. It is for these very reasons that I go to Holy Communion every day to consult Jesus about them.” I have been reflecting on his words and the importance that More put on his time with the Lord.
Similar to More, author E.M. Bounds understood the importance of prayer. Bounds wrote 11 books, and nine of those are on prayer. His words have probably inspired me more on this topic than any other author. Bounds said, “We can do nothing without prayer. All things can be done by importunate (persistent) prayer. It surmounts or removes all obstacles, overcomes every resisting force, and gains its ends in the face of invincible hindrances.” He also believed that time with God should be first on his agenda. Bounds said, “I feel it is far better to begin with God, to see His face first, to get my soul near Him before it is near another. In general it is best to have at least one hour alone with God before engaging in anything else.”
I believe it is easy to fall into two traps of thinking on the topic of spending intentional time on our knees at the feet of the Father. One is that there is not enough time. God has given us the same amount of time in each day—24 hours (1,440 minutes). I hate to admit it, but the real question is how I choose to spend that time. What are my true priorities? Time in prayer often falls into the bucket of important but not urgent. It usually does not become urgent until a crisis occurs. It is easy to overlook the true power in prayer. Bounds noted, “Prayer is of transcendent importance. Prayer is the mightiest agent to advance God’s work. Praying hearts and hands only can do God’s work. Prayer succeeds when all else fails.”
The second trap is thinking there is nothing important to be praying about. More said he was busy with important business, and he was. However, I would argue that all of us have the opportunity to be busy with important business. We have children (or grandchildren) to raise up as spiritual champions. We have work to do with excellence unto the Lord. We have friends, family, and neighbors with prayer needs. I have heard it said that most people are either coming out of a difficult time, in the middle of one, or about to face one. In my experience, I have found that to be true. As a follower of Christ, I believe our brief stint here on this planet matters. I occasionally need to remind myself of this fact. As we realize the importance of utilizing our time here for God’s business, I think it is easier to be intentional about staying connected in prayer with the Father. Maybe next time my friend puts me on the spot—I will be ready!