Reviving Habits of Prayer
By F.B. Meyer
Nothing would be better for most of us than a great revival in our habits of private prayer. Perhaps we cannot do as Luther, who was accustomed to say, “I have so much work to do today that I cannot get through it with less than three hours of prayer.” But that we should pray more, that we should labor in prayer, that we should cultivate the art of prayer, is clear.
The instinct and impulse are with us by the grace of the Holy Spirit, but we need to cultivate the gracious inward movements until they become solidiﬁed into an unbending practice.
Set a Time and Place
As far as possible, we should set apart one period in each day for prayer, and there can be no question that the morning hour is best. When the body is fresh from sleep, and before the rush of daily thought, care and activity invades the mind, then the bells ring for matins [morning prayers], and it is wise to heed their call. Give Him thy ﬁrst thoughts.
There should be, as far as possible, one room and one spot in the room, or one garden path, or a walk over the moor or beside the sea, where our seasons of private devotion are spent and our prayers are wont to be made.
The posture is a secondary matter. Many a Heaven-moving prayer has been uttered whilst the feet have been plodding along the road, or the hands plying their toils, or when weakness has chained the body to the couch.
A Spirit of Prayer
The main point for each of us is to have a spirit of prayer, so that the exercise be not irksome and tedious, but that the spirit may spring to it with delight.
We must not, however, wait for the high tide to rise before we launch forth on the voyage. If there is not deep water, we must make what use we can of the shallows. If the gale is not blowing to ﬁll our ﬂagging sails, we must make what use we can of the light breezes that dimple the calm and lethargic ocean.
Good is it when the soul leaps toward the prayer hour, but failing this eager desire, let us pray because we ought and because the supreme Lover of Souls will be disappointed if we do not appear at the trysting place to keep our appointment.
When the hour for prayer arrives, allow time for staying on the threshold of the temple to remember how great God is, how greatly He is to be praised, how great your needs are. Remember the distance between you and Him, and be sure that it is ﬁlled with love.
Recall the promises that bid you to approach. Consider all the holy souls that have entered and are entering those same portals; and do not forget the many occasions in which the lowering skies have cleared, the dark clouds have parted, and weakness has become power during one brief spell of prayer.
Fanning into Flame
We specially need the aid of the Holy Spirit, who helps our inﬁrmities in prayer. He kindled the spark of devotion at the ﬁrst and knows well how to fan it into a ﬂame.
It is good to conﬁde in Him, to confess that you would but cannot pray, that your desires are languid and your love cool, that the lips which should be touched with ﬁre are frostbitten, that the wings which ought to have borne you to Heaven are clipped. He understands and loves to be appealed to and will assuredly quicken the ﬂagging soul.
One look to the Spirit of prayer will ﬁnd Him in the heart. As our Teacher, He begins to repeat the words of petition which we lisp after Him. As our Comforter and Paraclete, He stands beside us, showing us where to aim our petitions and steadying our trembling hands.
Sometimes it will be the confession of recent backsliding and inconsistency, which have drawn a veil over the face of Christ; sometimes, the overﬂowing of thanksgiving, as you count over your blessings, one by one; sometimes, the urgency of need to intercede for some beloved friend or friends. But always, you may discover some wave of blessed helpfulness.
When we pray, it is not enough merely to speak a long list of requests into the ear of God; it becomes us to wait after each one and to receive by an appropriating act of the soul. It is as though we saw God take from the shelves of His storehouse the boon on which we had set our heart, label it with our name, and put it aside until the precise moment arrived in which He could bestow it on us without hurt.
But whether it is in our hands or not is of small matter, because “we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:15, KJV).
F.B. MEYER (1847–1929) was a Baptist pastor and evangelist in England who became lifelong friends with D.L. Moody. He preached on both sides of the ocean and was known as a crusader against immorality. He authored more than 40 books.