Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Cost of Prayer



I have this routine in the morning that involves coffee, eating breakfast, and reading my Bible.  I love it.  Throw in a mountain or an ocean view and you'd be as close to my idea of perfection as is possible this side of heaven.  It sets a tone for the whole day.  A morning enjoyed does a satisfaction in the evening provide.  Words to live by.

Yet, with the sunrise comes an inevitable hurdle, namely my children.  Don't get me wrong.  I love my kids.  No matter the burden, there is nothing for which I would trade them.  Their smiles, their voices, their feet sprinting from their rooms are a reminder that God's blessings are indeed new every morning but why does morning need to come so early?

My oldest son Jamison's current passion is birds.  If he wakes at 6:30 (6:27 today) I can expect the first ornithological discussion to begin at 6:31.  You can set your watch by it.

Consequently, if I want to have any time to enjoy my routine, then I must wake at 5:30.  That way I can get my reading and coffee in before the thundering herd begins to rumble.  What I cannot do, beyond a few seconds, is pray.

Part of this is my fault.  I developed this habit in high school where I write out my prayers in a journal.  The reason is my brain wanders far too easily to do otherwise.  Writing in a journal is hard to do in the early morning hours not just because of the time; it's an issue of light.  If I turn on too many, the boys won't even sleep till 6:30.

My solution is to save my prayer time for when I first arrive at the office.  Every morning I am thus reminded of a single, solitary fact.  Prayer has a price.

When I get to my desk I want to hit the ground running.  I want to bear down and dive into whatever projects demand my attention.  If I start with prayer, I have to delay what I want to get done.  Quite frankly, prayer costs me and it's not a cost borne easily.

If God were a vending machine, things would be different.  If I knew that what I ordered in the morning would arrive in the afternoon, you wouldn't be able to get me off my knees so to speak but it doesn't work like that.

More often than not what we find in the tray at the bottom of the rack of goodies isn't an answer so much as a call to persevere.  I don't want that.  I want the goodie.  It's like getting a birthday cake made out of broccoli.  I wonder if it's worth it and I'm not just talking about time.  When I ask, I risk disappointment.  We wear our hearts on our sleeves when we pray.  That's how hearts get broken.       

Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up His cross, and follow Me."  To deny means to reject someone with whom you have a relationship.  In this case, it's ourselves.  If we want to grow in Christ, we have to literally say no to a life-long friend.  I have to say no to me.

This is what happens when we pray.  We say no to ourselves, even when we ask for ourselves, because prayer is trusting in someone other than ourselves.  Prayer is taking up our cross.  When we pray we admit our helplessness.  That's self-denial.  That's following Christ.  Prayer may cost me time, effort, and energy but what I get back is a life more conformed to the image of Jesus 

There's never a shortage of needs for which to pray.  There are people you know who are sick.  There are people you know who need to know Christ.  Marriages are hurting.  Children are struggling.  Pick something, pick someone, and pray.  

Hebrews 4:16 tells us to draw near with confidence to the throne of grace.  Doing so will cost you.  It will take time.  It will take energy.  I can't promise that God will answer in the affirmative but I can promise that Christ will change your heart even if just a bit.  That's worth more than the price of gold.

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