My grandfather was fond of telling one particular story when attempting to accentuate the importance of a prayer life, one of perpetual fellowship with God, rather than sporadic supplication.
It is said that two men who were neighbors, went to the same church, were of the same relative age, and had been Christians the same length of time. One Sunday morning they were on their way to church, walking together, talking about the week they'd had, the animals that had gotten sick, or the cow that had given birth, just passing the time as they journeyed toward their destination. To get to church, they had to cross a hanging cross way, the only access point that connected their community to the house of worship. The walkway was old and in disrepair, and when the wind blew it shook violently. Both men stopped in front of the miniature bridge, narrow enough that only one man could traverse at a time, they looked at the rushing river below, and while one simply walked across, the other knelt to pray for safe passage.
For those who do not know God, Sunday is laundry day in Romania, so many people had brought their clothes to the river that morning. The village was small, everyone knew everyone else, and seeing the two men, knowing what church they went to, and that they were Christians the people on the banks of the river stopped to watch what was transpiring.
The man who did not pray made it across safely, without difficulty, and rising from his knees the man who prayed, also began his trek over the walkway. Halfway across, a particularly violent gust of wind caused the bridge to shake, and losing his balance the man who prayed fell into the river.
He swam to shore, wiped the water from his eyes, and saw that those who had been standing on the banks of the river, had already clustered together talking amongst themselves as to what had just occurred. One man had not prayed, and he had made it safely across, while another had prayed, and had fallen into the river.
The man who had fallen in, began walking toward church, head hung low, when suddenly he stopped in mid stride, paused for a second then turned to the crowd that was still chattering away.
'May I please have your attention', he said raising his voice so he could be heard over the humdrum of the crowd, 'I have something to say. The man whom you saw walk across the bridge without praying, in fact prays all the time. I on the other hand only pray when trouble arises, or when I am in a difficult situation. Now you know why I prayed and fell into the river, and why he was able to cross without incident even though he did not pray.' With that, the man walked away leaving the crowd to ponder his words.
When it comes to their prayer life, every Christian can be categorized as one of these two individuals. Either they have a continuous prayer life, a continuous fellowship with God, and He is there without being called, or they have a superficial prayer life, only calling on God when they have no other means of escape, and often, God does not answer.
It is easy to know which of the two we more closely resemble, by answering a few questions, if only to ourselves, honestly.
1. When there are no pressing needs, worries, trials, or concerns do we invest time in prayer and fellowship with God, or do we gravitate toward other things, that we perceive as a greater priority than prayer?
2. Do we desire to be alone with God, simply because we enjoy talking to Him as to a Father, because we desire to be in His presence?
3. When we pray, is it to ask God, or to thank God, to request and demand, or to fellowship and worship?
Contrary to popular belief, the time of fellowship with God, the time we spend in prayer, when there are no pressing needs, when we don't need God to help us out with the mortgage, or get rid of a chest cold, is not a waste of time, but it is a redeeming of time. It is during these times that relationships are forged, and when a need arises, the omniscient Father will meet the need even before we ask it of Him.
Our life of prayer, to use an overused cliche, should be like an iceberg. The majority of it's mass, is invisible, beneath the surface, away from prying eyes or camera lenses. The little that people do see, must be exponentially smaller than what they don't see in our prayer lives, otherwise we are praying for the wrong reasons, and in the wrong places.
Not long ago, I preached at a conference where there were other preachers present as well. After the service, we were invited to go to lunch, when one of the preachers, oh so piously said, 'I must decline the invitation, I am fasting.' The host looked at me, and asked, 'are you fasting as well?' to which I answered, 'no, I prepare for battle before going into battle. I fast and I pray long before I get on a plane, or get behind a pulpit, let's eat.'
When a man's heart is sincere toward God, his intent is not to project an air of piety, or a holier than thou attitude, his only concern is that he is ready for the battle ahead, that he prepares long before he is faced with conflict that he may stand, and having done all to stand.
When Daniel was thrown into the lion's den, he did not have time to pray, he no longer had time to fast, but because he did these things long before the need arose, the angels of the Lord were already there, shutting up the mouths of the lions.
A man or woman whose life is dedicated to prayer, true and undefiled, springing forth from a sincere and humble heart, will always reap the rewards of said prayers, will always know the fellowship and intimacy that only a true relationship with God can bring.
Matthew 6:5-6, "And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly."
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.