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the prayerlessness mess – greg liston

Could You Not Watch with Me One Hour?

Time for some honesty. The amount of prayer I put into my preaching falls well short of what I would like. It’s not that I don’t believe in the power of prayer. It’s not that I haven’t seen the difference it makes in the depth and delivery of my sermons. It’s not that I don’t care. It’s just that when it comes down to it, as much as I want to pray, as much as I know I should pray, as much as my heart longs to pray … I just don’t. Well … not as much as I’d like.

I’m like Peter in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus asks him to pray and goes away. An hour later, he returns to find Peter sleeping. Jesus asks Peter to pray again. And an hour later he returns to find Peter sleeping again. A third time Jesus asks Peter to pray. Surely this time Peter gritted his teeth (just like I do); he summoned up all his will power (just like I do); he determined with everything in him that this time he would not let the master down (just like I do). But when Jesus returned for the third time, Peter was sleeping (just like I do).

It could be that I’m the only one who has this problem. I might be the only Kiwi preacher that bemoans the fact that my sermons are not more saturated in prayer. I might be alone in having tried so hard and fallen short too many times. But I doubt it.

The more you think about it, the odder it becomes that the solution to prayerlessness we instinctively gravitate to is greater self-discipline and willpower. Andrew Murray writes “What folly to think that all other blessings must come from Him, but that prayer, whereon everything else depends, must be obtained by personal effort!” You can almost hear Paul’s biting exasperation: “Are you so foolish: having begun in the Spirit, are you trying to be made perfect in the flesh?” (Gal 3:3) Perhaps, purloining the words of Andrew Purves’ brilliant little book, “The Crucifixion of Ministry” this is another area of our ministry that God needs to kill so that he can resurrect it in Jesus’ image. Perhaps (Andrew Murray again) it will be “by falling down in utter weakness at the feet of the Lord Jesus, we find there that victory comes through the might and love which stream from His countenance.”

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