Monday, April 19, 2010

A System of Prayer: Problem?

A System of Prayer: Problem?

Is prayer a duty, or is it a privilege? Is joy essential to salvation, or an optional by-product?

I had been thinking about the tension a Christian sometimes feels between duty and joy. The next day an unexpected encouragement came from a post by a friend, Paul LeBoutillier ( Paul graciously allowed me to repost it.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? (Psalms 42:1-2, NIV)

The slave to the "system of prayer" soon finds that his prayers lose their freedom and become less spontaneous, less effective. He finds himself concerned over matters that should give him no concern whatever—how much time he spent in prayer yesterday, whether he did or did not cover his prayer list for the day, whether he gets up as early as he used to do or stays up in prayer as late at night. Inevitably the calendar crowds out the Spirit and the face of the clock hides the face of God. Prayer ceases to be the free breath of a ransomed soul and becomes a duty to be fulfilled. And even if under such circumstances he succeeds in making his prayer amount to something, still he is suffering tragic losses and binding upon his soul a yoke from which Christ died to set him free.

—A.W. Tozer, Of God and Men, pp. 79,8 (edited)

Is prayer for you a "duty to be fulfilled" or a privilege? Quite honestly I have struggled with prayer my whole Christian life. Back in the 1980s there was a movement of prayer calling Christians to "Tarry for one hour" with the Lord. I was so excited because I felt I had finally found a "system" that would work for me. The problem was I was serving the clock and not communing with my Redeemer. The passing minutes became my goal and before long my "system" failed miserably. Remember, Tozer isn't speaking against things that help us to pray, or even guidelines and lists to help us remember what to bring before the Lord. He's simply warning us about becoming enslaved to those things as the primary motivation and impetus for our time spent with the Lord. A duty eventually becomes burdensome. But a loving relationship where the goal is to allow the Savior to breathe His refreshing life into our spirit is one which can never become tiresome or dull.

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