How long ago was it when you set aside a part of your day, some of your time to pray? I’m not referring to prayers we say at mealtime or bed time, but time spent with our Lord when we intentionally share the things that we are concerned about. Time spent praising Him for His wonderful grace given to us or even just sharing time with Him with the things on your heart. I remember from an undergraduate psychology class that it takes nearly eighty hours of personal contact between two people to develop a close and meaningful friendship. Since then, I’ve come to believe that this also applies to our relationship with the Lord also.
Going to church can’t replace personal prayer time
As important as regular church attendance is for Christians, it cannot replace our personal time in prayer to the Lord. Jesus taught on this very subject: And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly (Matthew 6:5-6). Jesus was teaching that our prayers, where we are getting personal and completely honest, are not to be done in the synagogue – or the church. They belong between us and the Lord.
We all have experienced the occasional person who has been called on by the pastor to pray at church. What should be a prayer of thanksgiving or an invocation prayer can become a sermon within itself. These were the prayers Jesus is referring to as the Bible recorded His words, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men… There’s a verse within Proverbs that fits well into how many of us view those who pray with a lack of sincerity in public: Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain (Proverbs 25:14).
Time in prayer is spending personal time with the Lord.
In some of the churches I’ve attended, there’s been a special time set aside during the mid-week service where the members gather to lift their voices in prayer. As great as that was, and as much as the presence of the Lord could be felt there that evening, it still did not replace the personal time in prayer we are to have with the Lord alone. There’s a big difference between praying with others versus being alone with the Lord in prayer. Jesus taught during his earthly ministry, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret… a call for us to spend personal time in prayer – alone with our Lord only!
When we pray with others, even with our family or best friend, we tend to pray only what we want them to know. It’s a part of the natural man to gloss over the things we don’t want others to know about us. It is natural to leave sin unconfessed, to leave needs unspoken. When we are alone and pray to the Lord, we are more open and honest. We have a tendency to pray and seek forgiveness for sins more freely. When it is just us and the Lord, we share our needs more openly and honestly. In my own life, there is a big difference when I pray alone with my Saviour than when I am praying with others from church or even with my own family. I have to make the time to pray to my Lord each day.
Prayer is like any other meaningful event in life
When it comes to the things that have special meaning in our lives we spend time practicing. I know people who spend time preparing their bodies for the next marathon. Each day, I try to schedule time to practice my cornet. There are some in our church that spend time practicing their crochet and knitting so they do not lose those skills. Athletes practice the skills necessary to play their sports. The thing is if we want to get better at something, then we continually practice. We can do the same thing with prayer. Paul tells us to Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) – and pray for everything!