he Feb. 20, 2018 issue of Christianity Today, contained the article, “Are We Praying Too Casually?” The author, David Thomas, explained that, after reading the account of the Hebridian revival, his heart and curiosity were so stirred that he jumped on a plane and flew to Scotland to see if he could learn more of their incredible awakening.
David had the privilege of listening to a number of eyewitness accounts. The result? He concluded there was much for him to learn about real praying.
David discovered the kind of prayer that led to the outpouring in the Hebrides was common to all other awakenings in history, and, indeed, throughout the pages of Scripture. He went on to make the case that in contemporary American Christianity this kind of prayer is peculiarly absent.
The challenge? We need to learn to pray.
You can imagine my delight! I looked again to be sure I had not written the article myself. If you read the two previous articles, you know my journey to learn how to pray was sparked by a trip to the Hebrides as well as reading revival stories throughout history.
“While they admitted strong preaching and other measures had played a role in the revival, to a person they described something more essential when God moved... the attitude of brokenness and desperation that stirred Christians in that day, a spirit of necessity and audacity, a manner of prayer that could be daring and agonizing. They called it “travailing
prayer,” from how Paul described his prayers for the Galatians” - David Thomas
I hesitate to share more of my personal journey – not because I have arrived nor because my learning adventure has failed. Rather, the intimacy I am being drawn into feels too personal to share details. I also fear some will simply imitate my steps rather than seek the Lord for themselves.
My passion for the Lord has grown, and there is an increased intimacy and sensitivity to the Spirit, a new level of awareness of sin and unhealed wounds.
My journey has resulted in marked changes. My passion for the Lord has grown, and there is an increased intimacy and sensitivity to the Spirit, a new level of awareness of sin and unhealed wounds, and a decrease in desire for earthly entertainment.
I still feel like an infant when it comes to two types of prayer: the practice of silence on one end (I have actually set a timer for three minutes and thought that was grueling) and, on the other end, engaging in travailing prayer. Of the latter, no timer can be set – it can only be produced by the Spirit’s deep stirring within the heart.
I continue to ask the Lord to help me in my weakness – a prayer that, most of the time, God immediately answers.
There have been troubling periods in which the Lord felt distant, to my great dismay. But this journey has been wonderful, and I never want it to stop. I have recognized prayer is the one ministry I can continue until the day I die. My body may fail and my strength weaken, but I will be able to continue to pray.
My ability to partner with God to change the world need never cease, and yet, I am convinced that such a skill cannot be learned quickly in old age. If I do not learn to pray with effectiveness now, it is not likely I will when my body becomes feeble.
One great joy in this journey is that I have not done so alone. My precious wife, Carol, has pursued her own path to greater intimacy, and we have enjoyed sharing and praying together regularly. I have been able to process my thoughts and struggles with her, and she has been a great encouragement to me.
For you, my reader, be encouraged that the plea, “Lord, teach me to pray,” is one He will most readily answer.
Is there a better investment of our time than this?