The 19th-century British preacher Charles Spurgeon said something that to me defines the role of a Christian in regard to prayer. “As artists give themselves to their models, and poets to their classical pursuits, so must we addict ourselves to prayer.”
I must admit, though, that at times I have had a hard time maintaining a strong prayer life. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to pray—to the contrary—I just had a hard time sticking to my good intentions. It seemed that whenever I’d try to pray, thoughts would flood my mind and I would quickly find myself embroiled in other things.
I finally decided that I had to get to the core of the matter. Why was I having such a hard time? Was it laziness, a lack of motivation, or difficulty concentrating? It finally dawned on me that it was because praying seems like inaction. I knew in theory that prayer was essential to a Christian life, but in practice, I just didn’t feel it. I’m an action-oriented person, and praying simply didn’t make me feel like I was doing anything substantial.
So I had to change my attitude and see things in a different light. For me, that meant that when I was praying for a sick child, I imagined that I was actually there, cooling that fevered brow. When I prayed for peace in Africa, I pictured myself in the midst of the fighting, begging for it to stop. Visualizing my prayers helped them to come alive. It helped me feel more involved, as if I was “doing” something.
I’ve also found it helpful to start a file where I keep track of the people and situations I pray for, arranged by topic. I regularly add prayer requests that I hear about, promises from the Bible that apply, updates, etc., and I keep track of which prayers have been answered.
Prayer is the most powerful form of energy that one can generate. The influence of prayer on the human mind and body is as demonstrable as that of secreting glands. Its results can be measured in terms of increased buoyancy, greater intellectual vigor, moral stamina and a deeper understanding of human relationships. Only in prayer do we achieve that complete harmonious assembly of mind, body and spirit which gives the frail human need its unshakable strength. When we pray we link ourselves with the inexhaustible motive that spins the universe.—Dr. Alexis Carrel (1873–1944)