In John 15:7-8, Jesus makes a stunning promise: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (emphasis mine). The call to abide in Christ, to allow his words to abide in us, and to ask for whatever we wish assumes something very basic but extremely important: we must actually spend time with Christ. We must actually speak with him. We must actually ask. Prayer is a vital part of a relationship, and relationships require time and speech.
Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) received a call to serve as a missionary to China early in his life. Although he didn’t know it, his parents had devoted him to the Lord for this very task but then wisely allowed the Lord to work in his life and clarify the call without their direct intervention. Almost as soon as he received his call from the Lord, Hudson knew that he had to be a man of prayer in order to bear fruit. But like all of us, he struggled with the practical, daily aspects of it.
“Hudson Taylor was a normal boy living a busy life. Whether as a clerk in a bank or assistant in his father’s store, he had many temptations, and when a lively cousin came to be his roommate, it was not easy to keep first things first and make time for prayer. He knew, though, that without prayer there could only be failure and unrest. Taylor had to learn that there is no substitute for real spiritual blessing” (Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, Littleton, CO: OMF Books, page 13).
It’s a mistake to think that the heroes of our faith did not struggle with prayer, for every one of them did. What separates them from most of us is that they simply would not give up until they learned what it means to pray without ceasing. They read the Bible, listened to the words of Jesus, fought, failed, and pressed on in grace day by day.
In the coming months, we will hear many stories of faith and answered prayer from some of the leading lights of the last two centuries, but among the most important lessons we will learn from them is this: to be a house of prayer requires personal and corporate intentionality, discipline, and community. It requires personal and corporate focus, tenacity, and encouragement. We must help each other learn to make time for Jesus day by day and to ask for God-exalting things from Jesus day by day.
Prayer Focus: Pray that Jesus will help us see the importance of time and speech in our lives of prayer. Pray that he will give us a spirit to fight this good fight until we know what it means to pray without ceasing.