A Plea for More Prayer


“Ceasing from prayer is sin against God.”

Andrew Murray makes that bold assertion in his book, The Ministry of Intercession: A Plea for More Prayer.

And my response?

Ouch!

For a little more context, let me add the biblical quote prior to Murray’s statement. Speaking to a wayward people, the prophet Samuel said, “Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you …” (I Samuel 12:23a).

As an author, I cruise the Internet pubs where writers hang out and talk. One issue writers struggle with is time to write. My friend Susie, when she started writing, had to hole herself up behind a closed door and tell her children, “Mommy needs her writing time.” With four young children, she truly had her faith tested.

A lot of authors carve out writing time by staying up later at night or rising earlier in the morning.

Me?

I don’t have that problem because, other than “walk the dog,” I don’t have a commute to work, small children to feed, or anything else on my daily to-do list. I can write (or, more likely, avoid it) all day, any day.

On the other hand, I love to play basketball. And, if I want to enjoy that activity, I must rise before the sun, which is exactly what I do.

Okay, so here’s what I’m thinking.

People talk about finding time to do something like write, play basketball, read, or whatever. The solution usually involves extending the day one way or the other—rise earlier, stay up later.

But not until last year, did I include the idea of finding time to pray. Prayer was, for me, a nice idea, something I should do but usually talked more about than actually did. You can read my original thoughts on this issue here.

Some things I’ve discovered since posting that article:

If I put prayer at the front end of my day, I pray. If I don’t, I might or might not pray, but usually lean toward the might not side of the ledger.

I’m such a creature of habit that one simple change can throw me off (and, please, my dear wife, refrain from rolling your eyes and snickering). Just today I opened the front room closet and found a favorite baseball cap I thought I’d lost.

Why did I think I’d lost it? Because I always put that cap in the washroom with all my other caps. And, yesterday, the darn thing wasn’t in its usual place.

If I don’t keep prayer in its usual place, then I don’t think about it later and, by the time I get tucked into bed, I’ve forgotten prayer entirely. On the other hand, if I begin with prayer, it creeps into the rest of my day.

If I concentrate on two things, God and others, during prayer, I stay focused and energized. When I concentrate on God, I consider His attributes and His provision in my life. Scriptures that speak of God’s character help me realize to whom I’m speaking.

When I concentrate on others, I consider two types of people—those who have specific needs (financial concerns, illness, loss, etc.) and those who have yet to meet the Lord Jesus Christ.

When praying for people, I like the comment Kari Scare made in my last post. “I just pray for what I might need if I were in the person’s position or situation.” My wife Ellen says she concentrates on seeking God’s will for those she prays for.

If I start out distracted, I stay distracted. And I often start out distracted. A few things though help me break the pattern of distraction. I do have to be intentional in order to derail my mind’s penchant to trot off to my pressing daily schedule (which is, I remind you, “walk the dog”—and, yes, I am pathetic).

Following the pattern of a familiar prayer or verse helps. For me, the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm tend to bring my mind back into the present. I meditate on the words then I expand on their general theme, trying to apply them to my current circumstances.

Concentrating on who God is and what He’s done also helps. I draw from Scripture, personal experience, and the stories of others.

Coming back to Murray’s words, “Ceasing from prayer is sin against God,” I’m curious as to what you think. Is he right?

Recommended reading:

Kari Scare’s “How to … Pray for Others”

Jon Acuff’s “Do We Really Love People Who Aren’t Christian?”

Top 3 posts the last 7 days:

What’s Your Pleasure?

My Novel Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes Debuts

"Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes" visits with the morning basketball guys on its book tour of the city.

3 Observations About an Encounter With the Living God

You can find Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes at:

WestBow Press

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

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About tnealtarver

I've traveled and spoken around the world but always love to come home. There I eat exceptional meals, drink coffee to my heart's content, and get loved like nowhere else on earth. I believe a community centered in Christ should be all that and so much more.
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13 Responses to A Plea for More Prayer

  1. Mary Jeffries says:

    would you care to borrow any of my MANY books on prayer and praying….including ones on praying Psalm 23….Like you I find I need to start my day with prayer, I also find that God does not mind if I use it to close the day, even if I fall asleep before I am done! Have many times….LOL Good thing God is up all night too, because that seems to be when I can do my best at talking to HIM…..

    • tnealtarver says:

      Right now, if I borrowed a book from you, I’d add it to my pile. I think I’ll be working through Andrew Murray’s book for months. I should have my book stockpiled next week so you’ve got one coming your way. I ordered a bunch last Monday morning for an upcoming book signing at Culver’s.

      • Mary Jeffries says:

        The plan is for me to be home Fri through Sunday while Nate goes fishing with his brothers. Right now we will be pushing it to get home by Thursday night, but they dont leave till Fri after 1, so that will be ok if necessary. Maybe I can get it from you when I am in town this weekend, as then I can read it to Nate next week as we drive down the road. I can’t wait to share it with him! I also can’t wait to see the final version of the one I read so long ago…..pages and pages of typed material…I am so pleased and excited for you…. I keep telling everyone about it! God Bless you my dear texan Brother…how is your brother? Mary

      • tnealtarver says:

        Give me a call when you’re in town. You’re so right about “pages and pages of typed material.” The story just looks and feels different in a book.

  2. Great post and reminder on the vitality and need for intentionality in my prayer life. Since Paul calls us to pray without ceasing, looks like Andrew Murray has flipped the opposite of that. I recently heard John Ortberg affirm something like God is present in every conversation, and that awareness of His presence is a part of understanding unceasing prayer. So if I cease in prayer, cease recognizing His awareness, then i sin, I deny His presence in life. And that is a dangerous denial to make. Thank you for reminding me to start the day with prayer. That works best with my wiring, and helps me to remember if I start this day with God, I will better live this day aware of God.

    • tnealtarver says:

      Andrew Murray makes a similar point in his book. He says, “The presence of God is the great privilege of God’s people, and their only power against the enemy.” Sin separates us from that privilege. Good additional thoughts, Richard.

  3. Your recent postings on prayer have really sparked some thoughts and ideas within me. I’ve got some upcoming posts inspired by what I’ve been reading. Challenging the way we pray and when we pray is so important. As you’ve noted, prayer isn’t just something we should do… we are commanded to do it. To not pray is disobedience. I’m tired of disappointing God. Prayer is too often gone to as a last resort rather than our first line of defense. Keep up the direction in which you are going. If nothing else, you are motivating me in some areas.

  4. tnealtarver says:

    For Kindle owners, the Andrew Murray book is a free download at Amazon. Click the link and it’ll take you straight to the webpage.

  5. I relate to what your statement: “If I put prayer at the front of the day, I pray.” I have the same struggle with not praying if I wait until the end of the day. This post is going to make me more cognizant of this. Good post!

    • tnealtarver says:

      For me, it has to be at the front end of the day, but I asked people on Facebook when was their best times to pray. The answers varied. One thing though is a sense of having a consistent time.

  6. Pingback: 3 Truths to Remember When Life Gets Unsettling | A Curious Band of Others

  7. Pingback: How to… Pray for Others | Struggle to Victory

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