Prayer is like breathing for a Christian. If Scripture is the bread of the Word by which the Christian feasts for his nourishment and strength, prayer is the oxygen that fills our spiritual lungs. The Christian exhales his needs and burdens and inhales in the sustaining and sanctifying grace of God. For the Christian, prayer is instinctive. A Christian doesn’t need to be taught to pray. To do so would be like trying to teach a baby how to cry.

How long can you live without oxygen? Not very long. How long can you live without prayer? Some of you are trying to find out.

Prayer is predicated (established), Jesus says, on the fact that God “knows what you need before you ask Him.” Jesus shows us that prayer is grounded in God’s sovereignty and goodness. He is not ignorant of our needs; He knows them before we speak a word.

The Lord’s Prayer is intended to be a model. It is an outline that functions as a template for our own prayers. We can take each petition, recite it, and then pray in light of our present circumstances. For example, as you pray for the advancement of God’s Kingdom, you may begin to pray for your church, several missionaries, or particular people groups. Or, as you pray for your daily bread, pray for a pressing financial need you are facing that you may be freed to devote yourself more fully to the Lord. When you are praying, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” ask the Lord to help you extend forgiveness to a friend who betrayed you.

Use each line of the Lord’s Prayer as a spark for your own prayer. Read the petition, then pray it back to God in your own words through your own circumstances. Martin Luther often encouraged doing this each day in private prayer. He usually began his time of prayer with the Lord’s Prayer, and he found that doing so sparked a consuming passion for prayer that can extend to a great length of time.

We must persevere in prayer long enough to push through the coldness of heart we frequently have in prayer. If the hypocrites in Matthew 6 prayed with vain, long-winded prayers, Christians today pray with such brevity and infrequency that we disobey the command to pray entirely!

You see, you must devote yourself to prayer for more than a few minutes before you really begin to pray. You have to get past the formalism, the coldness of heart, the dull affections for the Lord. We must persevere and persist in prayer long enough until our heart truly prays to the Lord. Prayer is not a duty to perform, but a means to enjoy fellowship with God. By prayer, we can rest in His love. Prayer is the means by which we commune with the Lord. Yet, as D. A. Carson said, “Many of us in our praying are like nasty little boys who ring front door-bells and run away before anyone answers.”

When you bend your knees in prayer, do not get up until you have truly prayed. Persist in prayer. Meditate on Scripture to warm up your heart. Pray through the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. Just keep praying until you’ve prayed!

May the means of prayer bring oxygen to your soul. May it enliven you and cause you to yearn for more of the Lord. Perhaps today, you need to start breathing again. Prayer is a remarkable privilege and blessing for the Christian, a means by which we experience and know the fellowship we have with the Father through our union with Christ. Today, do not feel burdened with guilt over our lack of prayer—there is grace for you today! Instead, sense the wooing of the Holy Spirit, drawing you to the intimacy, depth, and love to be had in God through the means of prayer. Let us take up this means now as we pray together!


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