Matt’s eyes remained fixed on me. I felt my face flush slightly, and a series of justifications raced through my mind. I had given years to catalyzing spiritual vitality in my ministry vocation. I counseled and pastored people every day. Why was he singling me out?
But Matt wouldn’t let me off the hook until I answered his question. “Del, when and how long do you pray?”
I had never been asked that pointed of a question related to prayer. Bible study, small groups, moral accountability, church attendance, service—all had been emphasized. But a life of prayer?
I tried to cover for the alarming and surprising answer that welled up within me: My prayer life largely consisted of distracted prayers during personal devotions, hurried sentence prayers during the workday, public prayers at meals, church meetings, my children’s bedtimes. Oh, and an occasional season of intense prayer in response to a crisis.
Suddenly, the stark reality hit me like a ton of bricks. My prayer life was pathetic! Weak. Random. Irregular. Inadequate. Quite frankly, embarrassing.
Matt could sense my discomfort. He wasn’t condemning, but he wouldn’t drop the issue. “I’ve been asking a lot of Christian leaders around the country the same question,” he said quietly, “and your response is similar to virtually everyone I’ve spoken to. Prayer is clearly not a way of life for many Christian leaders. The proof is our calendars.”
Matt went on to tell me many things that day. About the pattern of morning and evening prayers that characterized the rhythm of Jewish life in the Old Testament, and appears to have remained the practice of the apostles and the early church (Dan. 6:10; 1 Thess. 3:10; 2 Tim. 1:3). About historical and anecdotal evidence suggesting that the normal rhythms of believers in every place where God is working with power today include a baseline of about two hours of prayer a day. About the remarkable relationship historically between the practice of extraordinary prayer and the outpouring of the Spirit in revival. And about his testimony as the *CEO of a ministry that decided to make corporate prayer a fundamental part of their job description, spending two hours a day in prayer together, via conferencing technology, as a multi-site ministry team.
But my head was spinning,
and honestly, I could barely listen. Two questions were hammering in my brain:
“Why don’t I pray?” Even more troubling, “Why hadn’t I even noticed?”
I left that day determined to explore and develop new rhythms of prayer. Since then, I’ve put concentrated periods of corporate prayer with several Christian co-workers into my schedule during the work week. My wife and I have initiated and continue to fight for quality times of family prayer as a core aspect of our identity as a family. And prayer is becoming a natural part of what happens when we gather with friends for meals and fun.
In the process, I am learning that almost anyone, even a non-Christian, is usually encouraged by a sincere offer to pray for them.
Making prayer a part of life is simply finding ways of continually inviting the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit into the conversation … of saying to God, “Thank You for being here. Thank You for the constant flow of Your goodness. Please be active; please let us participate with You. What do You want done? So let it be!”
In all of this, I consider myself to have just begun. A life of prayer is renewed on a daily basis. But I can say this: What began as conviction became a choice that has become an adventure and a delight.
Prayer is a gift, a context for living our lives with God. Prayer is a portal, a means of experiencing God’s presence, provision, and power. And prayer is a partnership—it’s the way the rule and reign of heaven is established in and through our actual lives.
So let me ask you, Matt-style: Do you pray?
Del Fehsenfeld III is the Senior Editor of Life Action Ministries’ Revive magazine. Content first published inRevive, Fall 2013.
*Matt Bennett is the founder of Christian Union, a ministry dedicated to reaching America’s most influential universities.