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February 17, 2020

 

The Progression of Persevering Prayer

My Dear Friend,

     After being born again by repentance and childlike faith in Jesus, we're suddenly thrust into a new way of life. All our old ways must go as we learn God's new ways day by day.

     Prayer is the most fundamental of those new spiritual life disciplines and we don't acquire this unfamiliar way all at once. We seem to progress steadily into a life of persevering prayer.

     Initially, though now a Christian, we continue relying solely on our human reason, planning our days and activities as we wish and only praying when large, very threatening problems confront us - and then only as a last resort after we've utterly exhausted ourselves by worrying our way through all the possible solutions we and others can think of to address the problem ... without success! But God graciously answers us and our fledgling faith is confirmed: God really does answer prayer! Prayer is now becoming a part of our life. But only occasionally.

     After being biblically taught that we should pray more, we begin to pray about daily challenges and perplexities as they arise. For the first time, we see childlike prayer to an omnipotent heavenly Father as a viable option likely to lead to a better resolution than one we or others have thought up in our own wisdom. Now spiritual thinking is beginning to form and our daily life is changing.

     Spurred by others' examples we begin to set times for prayer. Jesus prayed in the early morning, so maybe we should follow His example? He instructed us to have a "secret place" alone with God for prayer (Matthew 6:6-8), so we try it - one time a day. For the first time we're meeting with God voluntarily, not just when problems drive us to Him. Prayer is progressing now with greater regularity and our reliance on God is growing.

     Prompted by the ways of Bible characters such as David and Daniel, we begin praying more than one time per day. David, for instance, prayed three times daily: "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud" (Psalm 55:17). Perhaps inspired by this very Psalm, Daniel followed David's example: "He kneeled upon his knees, three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God" (Daniel 6:10). So, following their examples, we start praying two, three, or even more times daily. Now "God time" is becoming a fixture in our lives. Consequently, when needs arise, we no longer address them with human reason but with childlike prayer.

     To this we add regular participation in prayer meetings, since agreement in prayer releases greater power in prayer (Matthew 18:18-20; see Acts 12:5-11; 16:25-26). Praying with others established in the life of prayer helps further establish us in the life of prayer. We no longer vaguely hope but now expect God to answer every petition we offer in faith according to His will in His time and way.

     It then occurs to us that there are large spaces of time between our personal and group prayer meetings available for even more prayer. So we begin praying even in these "unscheduled" times, if not petitioning, then simply talking to Jesus and thanking Him as we would if He were physically present. Our praying is now less formal and more personal and conversational.

     We then learn the importance of impromptu prayer - not waiting to pray about something at a scheduled prayer meeting (which we should also do) but calling on God for help the very moment we learn of a problem, wherever we are day or night, and thanking Him by faith for the answer we believe He has granted (Philippians 4:6-7; see Mark 11:24; John 11:41-42). So now our prayers are both scheduled and spontaneous.

     Soon it dawns on us, we're praying all the time - and worrying none of the time! We're casting all our anxieties on Jesus and resting peacefully in His yoke of faith. We are emptied of self-confidence and full of God-confidence. Our way of thinking and living has been radically altered.

     We're living Pauline lives. We're following Paul's example: "I … cease not to give thanks for you … in my prayers" (Ephesians 1:16). And we're following Paul's instruction: "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Now, by the progression of prayer, we have transitioned into the full-orbed life of prayer!

     God's Spirit then lifts the veil and shows us what He's really been after all the time by leading us down this path of progressively persevering prayer: God Himself! He caused the pressure to drive us to the Relief. He sent the problems to send us to the Answer. He kept urging us to more prayer so we could know the Answer more, receive more life from Him, learn more clearly to discern His voice, live more closely to Him, praise and worship Him more, love Him more, and rest in Him more confidently.

     All along, it was all about Him, not prayer! More of Him, not just more prayer! So now God's purpose is complete: we're not only established in prayer, we're established in God! And we're ready, when the last trump sounds, to step from this life into the next without missing a beat. Or a prayer!

Progressing in persevering prayer,

Greg Hinnant
Greg Hinnant Ministries

       Greg Hinnant Ministries
PO Box 788, High Point, NC 27261
1-336-882-1645