I remember the moment we found out with perfect clarity. It was a hot day. My phone rang on the way to church but I didn’t answer it as we were rushing and adding final details to the sermon my husband Adam was about to preach.
I didn’t answer it as we walked from the car park to the entrance of church – people were stopping us to say hello.
But when I saw my mum’s name flash up on my screen a third time I motioned for Adam to go on without me, answered her with a cheery ‘hello’ and heard the news everyone dreads to hear.
“Your dad has been taken to hospital. He was hit by a car, knocked off his bike, he’s unconscious, may have broken his back in several places.”
The news hit me with tidal wave force as I tried to focus on each syllable of information; my head spinning in fear. Would he be ok? Would he be able to walk again? I tried to communicate the news to Adam, my heart feeling like it could beat out of my chest.
What I remember in that moment was an all-consuming, overwhelming compulsion to pray.
I had to pray like I had to breathe.
There are times in our lives when prayer is instinctual, crucial and urgent – even atheists might find themselves crying out to God when it looks like their plane will crash. Hospitals are saturated in prayers from the whispered hopeful to the wailing hopeless.
There are times when we have to pray.
Thank God, our prayers were quickly and wonderfully answered and my dad has made a full recovery.
But what about the times when it doesn’t feel as urgent? When prayer feels more burdensome than instinctual – do we, as Christians, have to pray?
We shouldn’t feel guilty or burdened – ultimately, prayer is compelled by our love for God and desire to maintain relationship with him. Love, not guilt should compel us to our knees.
However, all relationships require discipline as well as desire. Within marriage the discipline of a weekly date night might seem unromantic – yet we know that putting such a discipline in place creates healthy space for that relationship to flourish and grow stronger.
I think the same is true in our prayer lives. There are times when prayer is the natural overflow of love from our hearts towards God. But there are also times when we don’t necessarily ‘feel like it’ but we choose to commit our time to prayer anyway. The reality is that both expressions are crucial if we are to walk deeply into maturity in our relationship with God.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
The Apostle Paul commends us to pray continually; the early church were devoted to the practice of prayer, and Jesus himself showed us with his teaching and the pattern of his life that prayer is essential to our relationship with God.
Prayer sustains us and realigns us to God’s perspective. Prayer helps us grow more like Christ; it moves the heart of God and allows us to partner with His work in the world. Prayer leads to miracles, helps us overcome temptation and- ultimately – prayer is our doorway into the presence of God.
If we want to know God, we too have to pray.