Every morning I painfully set aside 15 minutes to help my son struggle through a beautiful piece of music as he tries to sight read his way through the manuscript. He’s learning piano, grade 3. As I watch Joe each Sunday effortlessly carried along in worship, his fingers dancing over the piano, it’s tempting to think that he was born playing. But the reality is that he started where my son is. Painfully working through exercises, stumbling over what should be beautiful and generally feeling a bit discouraged.
I’ve been reading some biographies lately of great prayer warriors. And its tempting to think that they were born praying.
I jest. Of course they were. The analogy is not perfect! Prayer is nothing like piano. Even, perhaps especially, children know how to cry out to their Father for help.
And yet there is a sense that prayer takes discipline. To enjoy spending time in prayer to our Father. To look forward to it as if it were the best part of life. To actually pray during that 30 mins you set aside – to not daydream and waste 25 mins of it – that takes practise. To even contemplate what it would have been like to be the son of God spending all night praying to God (Luke 6:12). This takes discipline.
For great pray-ers like Hudson Taylor and George Mueller, they spent a life time depending on God alone for what they needed. And as they did that fuelled an even greater dependence upon God to ask him for everything they needed, confident that he would always answer as he knew best. Their faith grew and grew the more they practised prayer.
I was hugely encouraged, reading Hudson Taylor’s biography to find that he had two words in Chinese characters hanging on his fireplace. Ebenezer, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us,” and Jehovah Jireh, “The Lord will provide.” These two words summed up his life of faith. I’m planning to work out my own version of this!
I was challenged by George Mueller, whose biography was called ‘a million and a half in answer to prayer.’ He had over fifty thousand specific recorded answers to prayers in his journals, thirty thousand of which he said were answered the same day or the same hour that he prayed them. As a result I have started to depend on God in – well I want to say everything – but lets just say more. And I’ve started to note down my prayers and when they are answered.
We have also started to read Mueller’s biography with our kids. Its so interesting to see their reaction – one is hugely inspired by the prayers being answered. The other is provoked – so why doesn’t God answer our prayers. His friend’s mum has just died, leaving 7 children behind. He is challenged by his friend’s continued trust in God, but struggling with the reality – “Why did God take her? Why didn’t he answer our prayers?”
Prayer takes us right to the heart of God. Is he really for us? The only way we can be sure of that is to trace his hand thus far. Has he been our Ebenezer? Has he stepped into history and given up everything for us? Does he know what it’s like to lose the one most precious to you? Has he beaten death and secured us a place with him for eternity? If so, he deserves the title Jehovah Jireh. If not, there’s no point praying.