“I will pray for you.” The words roll off my tongue easily enough and many times my heart whispers a short prayer right at that moment if I do not have the courage to boldly pray aloud. But for the past year I have been strongly convicted about my negligible attitude towards prayer – particularly my prayers for others. Oh, I believe prayer is important and I do pray. However, when it comes to praying for those whose lives do not directly intersect mine or even those whom I love and whose lives do intersect mine, I wonder if I have prayed as earnestly.
I read the prayer of Moses in Deuteronomy 9: 25, “Thus I prostrated myself before the LORD; forty days and forty nights I kept prostrating myself, because the LORD had said He would destroy you. Therefore I prayed to the LORD,…” And I read the prayer of Daniel, “Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.” [Daniel 9:3] Both of these men were interceding on behalf of their nation that had rebelled and turned away from God. They were earnestly pleading for God’s mercy in the lives of others.
I think about the times when I have prayed for others; times when I have knelt and shed tears on behalf of those I love. There have been times when my heart has been burdened for another – especially those I hold most dear – but I know that in comparison to these great men of God, I have not yet really spent time in earnest prayer. I have not donned sackcloth and sat in ashes; I have not lain face down for 40 days without food; I have not sweat drops of blood. I have not lain down my agenda, my desires, my time, and poured out my heart on behalf of another – not really…not earnestly…not like that. And if my prayers on behalf of those I know and love are not as intensely passionate as they could or should be, then my prayers for our nation are feeble at best.
I am thankful the Lord hears my prayers despite the lack of intensity and while I may not understand how my prayers intermingle with God’s sovereignty, I believe prayer is a vital part of the Christian life. Prayer is both a responsibility and a privilege, but I think it can also be a window to our heart. If my prayers for myself and those dear to me are more fervent than those for others whom I barely know or do not know at all, is it because my love for myself, my agenda, my needs, my wants, and the needs and wants of those close to me are more precious…more important than the needs of others and our nation? And what do my prayers reveal about my heart if even those self-centered prayers lack the zealous fire of a heart that loves deeply. Is it possible that I do not earnestly pray because I do not passionately, zealously, ardently, love my neighbor, the child down the street, the child in a third world country, or the nation that is my home? Oh, how I desire that I would learn to love deeply because I am loved deeply. If only my devotion to prayer would reflect some small measure of that love.
Lord, please teach me to pray.