What price prayer?
The Spice Box
by Sharon Robertson, Lt. Colonel –
One of the mythologies that surround our Christian experience is the belief that prayer is a freebie—there is no cost to the one who prays—it is the one who answers the prayer who does all the giving.
I wonder . . .
I wonder about Jesus, who gave up sleep in order to talk with the Father. Or about the sweat, like drops of blood, that trickled down his face as he agonized and said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
I wonder about Paul, who cried out to God over and over again for healing, until he heard God say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
And wonder begins to grow as I search through the Scriptures, looking at prayers—and at pray-ers—and discover the cost of prayer.
What should God be able to expect from me when I approach him in prayer?
1. God deserves my full attention. He understands the pressures that are piling up, but he has a right to expect me to give him my undivided attention during our special time together.
2. God deserves honesty. He expects that my praises will be from the heart, and never from habit; that my confessions be candid and my penitence be profound and life-changing. He expects that I will try to hide no wrongdoing from him—or from myself. He expects that I will be open with him, that instead of hiding behind a mask of assumed piety I will feel free to express my true feelings, and allow him to help me to deal with them.
3. God deserves sincerity. When I say, “Nevertheless, your will, not mine, be done,” I must be willing to accept his response, even when the answer is not the answer I hoped to receive. He deserves to be able to expect that I will make no promise that I am unwilling to keep.
4. God deserves motives that are pure. He has a right to expect that when I ask for some-
thing from him, I first search my own
heart to make certain that my motives are
not based on selfishness or self-centered-
ness. My Father encourages me to bring to
him all of my thoughts and desires, but as
I grow in him, he helps me become more
able to understand my own motivations
and to put aside those that are self-
5. He deserves that I take time to listen to him.
Prayer is a two-way conversation. I owe
God the courtesy of taking time to listen
to what he is saying to me. Talking to God
is easy; quietly communing with him,
taking the time to allow him to refresh my
soul as I listen to his voice can be difficult.
6. He deserves perseverance. He expects that
when I have a request that I feel is impor-
tant, I will be persistent in prayer and
consistent in doing what I can to bring it
to pass; he expects that I will not give up
until I am certain that he has answered,
one way or another.
7. He deserves faith. He expects that I come to
him in faith, convinced of his personal
interest in what I have to say and his
wisdom to act in my best interests. But in
those times when faith is difficult, he still
expects me to come. At those times I can pray, “Lord, I believe; help thou my
unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) And because he cares, he does.
No prayer is too rushed, too brief, too inconsequential—mercifully, our Father hears and responds as we remain in constant communication with him. No prayer is too inarticulate or too ungrammatical—God welcomes our prayers without regard to our speaking ability. And yes, it’s true—prayer is free—God levies no charges for his time. Still, there are times when prayer will be costly in terms of time, effort, energy, and follow through. And where we are reluctant to pay the cost, we will seldom recognize or appreciate its rewards.