This summer, we are reading Don Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life together. With certain goals for us as individuals, we all desire to grow in grace and personal holiness. The purpose of this study is to help us make necessary adjustments in our spiritual lives that will enable us to achieve such goals by incorporating the use of spiritual disciplines.
In the previous two chapters, Don Whitney made the point that the most important of the spiritual disciplines is Bible intake. In this chapter (chapter 4), he takes a good look at the discipline of prayer. In the opening words of this chapter, Don Whitney writes, “Despite the penultimate importance of prayer, however, statistical surveys and experience seem to agree that a large percentage of professing Christians spend little time in sustained prayer” (79).
Prayer Is Expected
Jesus expects His children to pray. This point is made abundantly clear as Whitney cites several passages (Matt. 6:5, 6, 7, 9; Luke 11:9; Luke 18:1). He goes on to suggest that Jesus’ words in the Bible are personal expectations for us as His children. Not only does Jesus expect us to pray, but the totality of God’s Word makes it clear that followers of Christ are to be praying people.
- Colossians 4:2 – Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:17 – Pray without ceasing.
Don Whitney writes, “When our awareness of the greatness of God and the gospel is dim, our prayer lives will be small.” These words are true and helpful as we consider the foundational reasons behind the prayerlessness that plagues a large percentage of God’s people.
Prayer Is Learned
Just as Whitney pointed to poor methods that prevent people from memorizing the Bible, in like manner, he makes the claim that that people are not praying more is based on the fact that they’ve never been taught to pray. Don Whitney writes, “If you’ve ever learned a foreign language, you know that you learn it best when you actually have to speak it” (85). He does a good job of pressing the point that we must learn to pray. The best way to do this is by consistent practice.
Whitney goes to the Puritans and provides several good quotations to demonstrate the need to meditate upon the Scriptures as a good way of praying through God’s Word. He quotes William Bridge who said, “Reading without meditation is unfruitful; meditation without reading is hurtful; to meditate and to read without prayer upon both, is without blessing” (88).
Prayer Is Answered
Not only are we called to pray and to learn to pray better, but we are to trust God by faith to answer our prayers. Psalm 65:2 says, “O you who hear prayer.” What did Jesus teach us in Matthew 7:7-8? The point is clear, God answers prayer. This is not only a great comfort to our souls, but a true blessing to God’s children. God wants us to pray and God desires to answer His people who pray.
Catch up in this series:
Questions to Consider:
- Because prayer is expected, will you pray?
- Since prayer is learned, will you learn to pray?
- Since prayer is answered, will you persistently pray?
J.C. Ryle once said:
What is the reason that some believers are so much brighter and holier than others? I believe the difference, in nineteen cases out of twenty, arises from different habits about private prayer. I believe that those who are not eminently holy pray little, and those who are eminently holy pray much (98).
Next Week: Next week, we will turn to chapter 5 and look at the subject of worship. Read ahead and think through the content of that chapter, and we will gather here next week to discuss what we’re learning.
Discussion: Post your comments, thoughts, and questions in the comments section. I will engage with you at times, but the purpose is to allow everyone to have a conversation regarding what we are learning and considering through this book. I do hope you will be encouraged.