Can we pray too much?

By , May 8, 2011

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2 (NIV)

When a paramedic arrives at the scene of an accident the first thing is to identify who are the victims and then triage them that is, decide the order in which the victims are to be helped. The most seriously hurt are given attention first and those less injured wait until the critical ones are attended to immediately. This is obviously the most reasonable way to proceed.

Vital signs are taken to determine the degree of stability of the patients and how serious their injuries are. Prayer is the vital sign of life in the soul. If the person does not pray then they may be presumed to be without spiritual life. If the victim at the accident scene does not have a pulse and is unresponsive in any manner, then they may be presumed to have died.

It is widely believed that prayer is at the same time the most difficult and the easiest spiritual exercise to engage in. We hear of some people who can pray by the hour. Others seem only able to pray for a few moments at a time. We should not be discouraged if we cannot spend hours a day praying. The need is to pray just as we need to breathe. As long as the person is breathing we understand there is hope. So it is with prayer.

Of course, when we suffer we find ourselves able to pray longer and with a passion we may lack when times are good. Again, we should not beat ourselves up over the fact we are better at prayer when things are difficult. People who are working very hard breathe faster than those who are at rest. Some of the most powerful prayers recorded in Scripture come at especially important times in the person’s life. It is natural to pray harder when the going is challenging.

However, if we can get by without prayer at all then there is cause for alarm. This activity is urged on us in Scripture, it is commanded in Scripture and there are many promises to stimulate us in this remarkable exercise. So in a way, prayer is natural and not difficult at all. Some of us have a good hymn book to get us started in prayer. Others, myself included, add the Anglican Common Book of Prayer to our library on prayer and read a prayer or two from it to “prime the pump”. If we can use hymns composed by others, we can certainly use prayers composed by godly people.

Do you find prayer awkward or formal? Is it something you engage in mostly, or only at times of emergency? Well, you are certainly right to pray on those occasions but I urge you to pray at other times as well. Prayer may be offered when you are alone commuting back and forth to work. Prayer can happen when we see a gorgeous sunset and simply thank God for our eyes and the beauty of creation. As you go out for a walk by yourself you have a great opportunity to offer thanks to God, you may want to mention others you know who are struggling with life. Then again, you may ask the Lord for grace to face the issues in your own life.

Whatever the occasion, wherever you are, God is near to those of a humble heart and your prayer will be heard when you offer it in Jesus’ name. A beautiful promise in Isaiah 65:24 is, “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.” (NIV) So the Lord tells us He has a very attentive ear to our prayers. Does this not encourage you to come to Him right where you are and pour out your heart to Him? He longs to be gracious to us and to respond to our prayers on any subject.

What more does God need to do to get you to pray? Do you not find in your heart a yearning to be in God’s presence? Are you not finding yourself wanting to know that God hears and answers prayer? The Lord is gently calling each one of us to prayer, to talking to Him about our needs, about our sorrows. Why not come to Him today and just say what is on your heart, praise, pain, loneliness, anything. He is waiting for you to come. Come and come now.

Can you pray too much? No, never. But you can certainly pray too little!

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