Luther once said that:
Payer is a difficult matter and hard work. It is far more difficult than preaching the Word or performing other official duties in the church. When we are preaching the Word, we are more passive than active; God is speaking through us, and our teaching is His work. But praying is very difficult work. This is the reason why it is also very rare.
I can understand that. Praying can be hard, and praying well, praying faithfully, praying regularly, and praying deeply is harder still! And that is why it was far rarer in my life than it should have been. I have never been as good at praying as I should be. I have rarely made it the priority it must be. For the longest time I kept telling myself that it was hard on the daily schedule (Ive already got so much to do that I can’t fit it all in!), hard on the knees (I’m not as young as I used to be!), and hard to get excited about. (If you pray for all those people then you just might have to love and care about them more – are you ready for that kind of commitment?) Prayer is just plain hard.
But it is also a truly remarkable gift.
Learn, therefore, that there can be no real prayer without this faith. But do you feel weak and fearful? Your flesh and blood is always putting obstacles in the way of faith, as if you were not worthy enough or earnest enough to pray. Or do you doubt that God has heard you, since you are a sinner? Then hold on to the Word and say: Though I am sinful and unworthy, still I have the commandment of God, telling me to pray, and His promise that He will graciously hear me, not on account of my worthiness but on account of the Lord Christ. In this way you can chase away the thoughts and the doubts, and you can cheerfully kneel down to pray. You need not consider whether you are worthy or unworthy; all you need to consider is your need and His Word on which He tells you to build.
Over the past two years I have worked hard at making prayer a regular part of my day (and my ministry). Every weekday morning at 9:30 am I am at the church praying the Daily Office. I did it for a full month to work myself into it and then I opened it up to the members of the congregation and the community at large. It isn’t always easy (some days are just so busy, some mornings seem to early – no matter what the time is – and sometimes I just don’t want to pray for anyone or anything … but then I do it … and it is always rewarding.
Worthy or not, I come before God and He listens because of Christ. Worthy or not I ask Him for the same things and on behalf of the same people over and over again. And He listens because of Christ. Sometimes the words are said with gusto, sometimes I forget what I have read or spoken, but always God listens because of Christ. And even if nothing else that day seems to go right, I know this one thing has. God has listened and God is answering, and God is responding to the prayers of this pastor and his congregation. He listens and He gives out His remarkable gifts.
For example: In the picture you will see a particularly gracious gift I have been enjoying for the past few weeks. It was given to me by one of my dear members to make all that praying a little easier on this old body of mine. This prayer bench was pieced together from scraps he had in his workshop he tells me. Yet under the skilled hands of this craftsman you can see what a treasure it has become.
That’s what the gift of prayer is all about. We give the Master Craftsman, the carpenter from Galilee, the scraps of our lives … our hopes and dreams … our pains and fears … our pleadings and our intercessions for friends and family – for the whole world … and in His skilled hands He turns these prayers into blessings for one and all in the works of His kingdom. Who wouldn’t want that kind of gift more often? Cheerfully kneel down and open the gift he has given you in Prayer!