Why A Five-Minute Prayer Time Is Not Enough
Let's be honest, time matters. Those things we spend time doing we become comfortable with and eventually master. Also, the activities we are involved in the most become part of us.
So, let's talk about time spent in prayer and devotion. Whew...
I heard one of my Seminary professors talk about the wave of people he was baptizing into the Kingdom of God while he was a pastor. 200-300 people were regularly responding to his sermons and making decisions to be baptized. He was invited across the globe to share the story of his unprecedented success in winning people to Jesus and he gladly went. As he shared, he would always tell them that he linked the amazing response he got from people to the two hours he spent in prayer every morning.
So, I'm listening to him and my immediate question is, "Where in the world would I get two hours in the morning?!?!? Nah, that's not for me..."
Well, afterwards, he said the pastors or church leaders who invited him would take him to dinner and as they spoke, inevitably someone would ask what the real secret to his success was. With a smile and bright eyes, he'd reply, "My two hours in the morning with God!" The table would hush and everyone would either pick at their food or find something else to talk about.
I wonder if they were thinking the same thing I was, "Where in the world would I get two hours in the morning?!?!? Nah, that's not for me..."
My professor told that story and then shared the statistic that in a survey, most pastors reported that they spend less than 30 minutes in prayer, daily. They cited the amount of work that goes into sermon preparation, visitation, running meetings, connecting with civic leaders, the demands of family as factors. These stressors demanded so much of them that they simply don't have the time to spend with God.
It was also cited that 1,500 pastors a month were leaving the ministry. More than I'd like to talk about have been involved in an extramarital affair and most of them feel they don't have a close friend they can talk to.
Let me tell you as a Pastor, this is REAL! It's not even for a lack of desire for a closer walk with Jesus or that we believe we don't need a closer walk with Jesus. It's not because pastors are naturally nasty and lack moral fiber. With all of the voices demanding your time and energy, where in the world do you find the time?!?! And the example of far too many of my ministerial colleagues, even MY OWN EXAMPLE is that the lack of intentionality around spiritual development and prayer naturally leads to moral and professional failure.
Have you had trouble finding the time to devote to your devotional life? With family, work, exercise, meeting-up with friends and the like, it can be nearly impossible to carve out that section of quiet (or time filled with music) communion with God. And unfortunately for a lot of people, the time we're able to carve out is far less than we need to confidently meet the mental and emotional demands of each day.
As I sat to write, I was honestly going to let us all off the hook. I was literally going to write, "It doesn't matter how long you spend, as long as you spend time with God." Real talk, I've been thinking about it and had everything together to send it to all of you...
Then, I remembered my professor.
I remembered the Apostles...and Jesus...and I thought of the things they were able to do that I wish I could. I also remembered that Jesus would wake-up a great while before day to spend time in prayer. Sometimes he'd be up all night, just praying. And when he stopped praying, he'd give the devil hell!
I remembered some of the most powerful sermons I've heard. Not all of them were eloquent or masterful. Most of them were merely proclaiming the simple truths of God's word with power which called those listening to repentance. The key ingredient? Prayer...lots of it!
Then there's me. I remembered how easy it is for me to get discouraged and how often I go off on people. I remembered how my husband and I are attacked spiritually each and every time I have to preach or do anything that advances the Kingdom. When I think about me, I am clear; I need to spend more time in prayer. Not because of some goal line I'm trying to cross, but because I need to be filled just that much for the spiritual demands placed on me and my family.
Rather than talk to you about hours minutes and seconds, I'd like to talk to you about need. The biblical model would suggest that the amount of time we spend in exclusive connection with God is directly proportional to the amount of strength we have to make it through the demands of our daily lives.
I am as uncomfortable as you may be while reading this. Please understand that.
If we lack the strength to meet the demands of managing our lives with courage and power, it is proportional to our commitment to prayer and connecting with God. The introduction of depressing thoughts are a fact of life. Family dynamics out of wack, co-workers and church members out of control...those things HAPPEN! How well you are able to manage them and how tattered you are when you leave them, today, is connected with how bathed you are in prayer.
Some of us speak...to our children, to a board room, to churches...and we feel that our words have little to no impact. The impact of our words is heavily determined to our commitment to prayer.
Others of us minister and people tell us how beautiful a job we did. They tell us how "blessed" they are with our presentation. We are so awesome and amazing...but they have said nothing about how their hearts were pricked or how they were laid bare before God and see their desperate need of Him. They leave us impressed but not imprinted...it's for lack of prayer.
I'd like to repeat for the record, I am as uncomfortable as you may be while reading this. Please understand that.
It's hard enough to get out the door in the morning after making breakfast for my husband and exercising and trying to remember everything I'm supposed to do at the office, today...and I don't have children regularly in my home! I can't imagine what you all endure from day-to-day, juggling responsibilities in several places and THEN trying to get major time in to pray?!?!
The Holy Spirit is reminding me, right now, that each of us is too busy NOT to pray. Help us Holy Spirit.
So, here it is...we can't be victorious in life without devoting major time to prayer on a daily basis. We're going to continue to have anemic strength in every area of our lives until we devote ourselves to connecting to God in prayer deeply and meaningfully. Then, our strength is increased when those times of connection are substantial.
God and I are going back and forth, right now. I'm asking "HOW?!?!?" Then I remember the amount of time I spent playing "Angry Birds" and "Balls" on my phone. Then there's the time I spent scrolling Facebook and Instagram. Someone is saying, "I don't play "Angry Birds," so this doesn't apply to me." I realize that it's not about what the time is spent doing...the reality is that Satan will cause us to emphasize ANYTHING so that we won't lay hold to God in prayer. ANYTHING!!!
Our enemy will continue to present us with the items that you FEEL you simply can't afford to negotiate to pray because he wants to keep you weak and floundering.
This means your children. Beautiful and needy as they are, your prioritizing them over your time in prayer is going to show up somewhere; either in their response to your behavior or in your response to theirs.
This means your marriage. I am learning how easy it is to have misunderstandings and to get pretty angry at this beautiful person who you love and would give your life for. Even spending time with my "Honey" has to bow to spending time with God in order for us two broken and flawed folks to work.
This means your ministry. You will be spinning your wheels and caught-up in meaningless meetings and fruitless efforts... Constantly frustrated, on the edge of burn-out and ready to quit because you haven't prioritized prayer.
You can do more for each and every area, responsibility, person in your life with time spent in prayer than you can accomplish on your own. When we accept this, we can begin the conversation with God about how we get there.
So, we must confront ourselves. We must critique our lives. We must ask the Holy Spirit to get out the magnifying glass and show us the truth in this area. More prayer, more power...Little prayer, little power...Period.
Help us, Lord Jesus...
Lord, I actually believe I should spend more time in prayer, but looking at my typical day, I can't readily say where that time would come from. Or maybe I can, but I find myself clinging to that time. Please help me! It's tempting to believe that I can do more by diving in and being "on duty" without thoroughly seeking you but teach me that you can do exponentially more when I place my time with you as top priority. I need your wisdom to do this...please guide me through it.