Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Prayer and the Christian minister

Has there ever been a Christian minister who has been satisfied with his or her prayer life?  I've never met one although I'm sure there are some who have rich, satisfying prayer lives.  Some who claim to be satisfied with their prayer lives have, perhaps, set a rather low bar to meet, but I have no doubt that there are others with a prayer life that is indeed powerful and vibrant.  I've often wished that was me.

Like so many believers, my own prayer life has its ups and downs.  I have known seasons when I felt my prayer life was rich and approaching what I felt it should be.  Far more often it has been something tacked on to the more pressing demands in my life.  I once read the confession of a minister who one day realized that there were days when he could go without prayer.  He was shocked that he could do that.  I wasn't because I've done the same thing.

This week I started reading Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller during my morning devotions.  In the first few chapters it has once again reminded me of the importance of intimate times of prayer with God and the impact such times has on the life of the minister.  Keller quotes the 17th century theologian John Owen who wrote, "A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and no more."

Whether one is a bivocational pastor or fully-funded, the demands of life and ministry can easily lead us away from prayer.  If we are not careful we one day realize that our prayer lives consist primarily of public prayers at events or worship services with little private time spent with God.  That lack of time spent alone with God eventually leads to spiritual dryness and an emptiness that affects every aspect of our lives.  I have been there at various times in my ministry, and it is not a fun place to be.

While my prayer life is not what I want it to be, I can say that it is much better than it has been in the past.  A doctoral class I took under Elmer Towns helped me approach prayer differently and had a positive impact on my prayer life.  Yet, I also know that I am still a student of prayer.  I think the same could be said for most of us.  That is why I chose this book as part of my devotional reading.

I want to encourage you to reflect on your own personal prayer life today.  Are you satisfied with it?  More importantly, do you think God is pleased with your prayer life?  If you aren't satisfied with your answers, what can you do to begin to improve?

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