The other day I stood in the bookstore (you know, those buildings that house thousands of rectangular objects made of printed paper and which are pressed between two pieces of cardboard and glued together on one side), scanning the titles of all the books on prayer. I was intrigued (and not for the first time) at how many different books there were on the subject.
One minute prayers for busy moms took up a good amount of space on the shelves, as well as books on summoning God to teach us how to pray, books on explaining what happens when we pray, books teaching how to pray using God’s word, and there is a large series just on the power of prayer by just one woman: The Power of A Praying Wife, The Power of Praying for Your Child, The Power of a Christmas Prayer and many, many more.
I have read my share of books on prayer. What Happens When Women Pray by Evelyn Christenson was my first, followed by Becky’s Tirabassi’s, Let Prayer Change Your Life, which certainly did change my prayer life.
I think there is a place for books on prayer just as there is for Bible studies for studying God’s word. I guess what I have concluded, however, is with so many books on prayer, we spend ample time reading about prayer and often, very little time doing it. This not only comes from personal observation but also experience. I’ve taken several classes on prayer where the last thing we actually did was pray.
At church a few nights back, I sat in on a class about outreach in the church and well aware of the class in session in the next room. Both classes were scheduled for a hour and a half and the person teaching the class on prayer talked from beginning to end. When I thought about it later, I couldn’t recall the class ever stopping to actually pray. What an opportunity we give to the enemy when we merely get fired up talking about prayer, about doing it more effectively, but never spending the time doing it.
I was speaking to a friend about this and told them how I was beginning to see the same thing when it came to dealing with God’s word. We go to Bible studies, attend church services, and support groups based on spiritual principles, but how often do we actually take time to sit and just read His word for ourselves and not just so that we can answer question number two on page 31 in our current Bible study workbook.
A few months ago a woman spoke at our church about drawing closer to the Lord. She made a comment about spending time with Go and how she prayed often for gib blocks of time to study His word. She was saying that she asked God for a window of three to four hours where she could sit and soak up His word, study His word, examine His word. As she talked about it, my spirit hungered for the same thing. She went on to add God’s response to her when she had spoken to Him about it.
“What are you going to do with four hours what you haven’t even begun to do with four minutes?”
Ouch. She paused for effect as she stood behind the podium. I paused with her out of conviction. We fool ourselves into thinking that if we just had more time, less commitments, took more classes, summoned a friend to prayer regularly with us – these are the things that will give us a relationship with the Lord for which we yearn.
Sometimes they do. Sometimes they are beneficial. Sometimes they serve the purpose of the writer and the reader, but I tend to believe that sometimes they become a distraction from the deeper relationship we desire instead of a connection to it.
If I really want to learn God’s word, I must read it and not just read about it. If I want to experience the power of prayer, ultimately I need to put down the teaching manuals and just… pray.