“A brother said to Abba Anthony,’Pray for me.’The old man said to him, ‘I will have no mercy upon you, nor will God have any, if you yourself do not make an effort and if you do not pray to God.’“
——sayings of the Desert Fathers
The real question is when we ask others to pray for us are we in prayer also. The Abba seems to imply that we must be in fervent prayer when we ask for the prayers of others. The question we ask of ourselves when we ask for prayer is – Have I been in prayer FIRST? We cannot rely upon the prayers of others until we have brought our needs to God.
Without an active prayer life we are like rudderless ships. Each of us must take seriously our responsibility to keep in touch with God so the when trouble comes, we will be able to function. No one can pray enough for you so as to make up for your own spiritual lifelessness.
We are compelled to develop ongoing and effective spiritual disciplines. As we practice spiritual disciplines we build a true relationship with God that allows us to be confident in the midst of the most difficult of times. The wisdom of the desert tells us that we must have our own relationship with God to receive His mercy.
While very ill, John Knox, the founder of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, called to his wife and said, “Read me that Scripture where I first cast my anchor.” After he listened to the beautiful prayer of Jesus recorded in John 17, he seemed to forget his weakness. He began to pray, interceding earnestly for his fellowmen. He prayed for the ungodly who had thus far rejected the gospel. He pleaded in behalf of people who had been recently converted. And he requested protection for the Lord’s servants, many of whom were facing persecution. As Knox prayed, his spirit went Home to be with the Lord. The man of whom Queen Mary had said, “I fear his prayers more than I do the armies of my enemies,” ministered through prayer until the moment of his death.
For several years now I have been on a pilgrimage of prayer-an excursion that has brought me to many different places and ideas, but in the end the greatest inspirations come from the fathers of the faith. Some of these fathers, like John Knox, come from the reformation. Others are from the desert or monasteries, but all have testimonies of the power of prayer to transcend all barriers. The mere fact that Queen Mary, enemy of all things protestant, would have a good word about the prayers of John Knox speaks volumes about the power of prayer.
Have you neglected prayer in your life? Have you limited the nature and scope of your prayer? Do you fail to spend time simply in the presence of God? If you answered yes to any of those questions you are not allowing God to bless you as fully as He might. Set aside a place, a time, a manner of prayer that is yours and yours alone. I’m afraid that the corporate prayer of worship is not enough to truly feel the complete awe and majesty of God in your life. Besides, if you come to worship primed and ready, the blessings will flow like a torrent rather than a gentle stream.