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Prayer Is: A Duty (leading to delight)

This post is the second in a series on the nature of prayer. See Part 1.

The desire for immediate gratification is ingrained in our souls as a result of the fall, and our age of fast food, fast internet, and instant access to information only feeds this perceived need. Statistically, over half of webpage visits are abandoned if the page takes longer than 3 seconds to load.[1] Yet our prayer-relationship with God—like any personal relationship—doesn’t function like a state-of-the-art website, or instant noodles. Don’t get me wrong, prayer offers numerous glories—far outshining ramen!—because the God we pray to is glorious! Yet prayer is a mature, long-term friendship, not a drive-thru window. It is going to take work.

Many delights of prayer could be listed to answer the "why?" of prayer and provide motivation. However, prayer is not a "take it or leave it" activity for those Christians who have been fully convinced of its value. Prayer is a duty. Numerous passages make this clear.[2] While prayer can and should be a delight for Christians, it won't always feel that way. Paul, just verses after he commands the Colossians to "continue steadfastly in prayer" (4:2), also refers to prayer as a "struggle" or "labor" (4:12). Prayer is hard work. The flesh is weak. Believers must work hard to cultivate this spiritual discipline even when its delights aren't immediately evident. Packer and Nystrom make this point in their book Praying: Finding Our Way Through Duty to Delight: "Good praying is at once both duty and delight, but often we must begin where prayer is primarily duty. As we grow in the knowledge of prayer and in the practice of praying, however, God will sanctify our efforts and delight will come upon us."[3] We must not wait for the delights of prayer to be present before we submit ourselves to the duty. I was just explaining this to a new believer the other day. Prayer is one of what theologians call the "means of grace." These are not works by which we earn saving grace, but are channels through which God has ordained to pour his transforming grace into our lives (such as Scripture reading and fellowship in the local church). Prayer is one of these (Heb. 4:16), and we must place ourselves in its path by cultivating a habit of regularly meeting with him, "the God of all grace" (1 Pet. 5:10).

[1] https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/en-154/marketing-strategies/app-and-mobile/need-mobile-speed-how-mobile-latency-impacts-publisher-revenue/amp/. [2] Matthew 5:44, 6:5-14; Romans 12:12, 15:30; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17

[3] J. I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom, Praying: Finding Our Way Through Duty to Delight (InterVarsity Press, 2009), 10.

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