A good friend of mine who has a real gift for tracking down little-heard-of Christian books that turn out to be total gold dust recently presented my wife and I with a copy of “The Upper Room” by J.C.Ryle, the one-time Bishop of Liverpool (a bishop who believed the gospel – they do exist!!) He had bookmarked a carefully chosen chapter titled “The Duties of Parents”, which so far has been inspiring and daunting in equal measures. One duty in particular stood out as especially germain to this blog: “VI. Train them to a habit of prayer”. Allow me to quote:
Prayer is the very life-breath of true religion. It is one of the first evidences that a man is born again… Prayer was the distinguishing mark of the Lord’s people in the day that there began to be a separation between them and the world. “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord” (Gen 4v26).
Prayer is the peculiarity of all real Christians now. They pray,-for they tell God their wants, their feelings, their desires, their fears; and mean what they say. The nominal Christian may repeat prayers, and good prayers too, but he goes no further.
Prayer is the turning-point in a man’s soul. Our ministry is unprofitable, and our labour is vain, till you are brought to your knees. Till then, we have no hope about you.
Prayer is one great secret of spiritual prosperity. When there is much private communion with God, your soul will grow like the grass after rain; when there is little, all will be at a standstill, you will barely keep your soul alive. Show me a growing Christian, a going forward Christian, a strong Christian, a flourishing Christian, and sure am I, he is one that speaks often with his Lord. He asks much, and he has much. He tells Jesus everything, and so he always knows how to act.
Prayer is the mightiest engine God has placed in our hands. It is the best weapon to use in every difficulty, and the surest remedy in every trouble. It is the key that unlocks the treasury of promises, and the hand that draws forth grace and help in time of need. It is the silver trumpet God commands us to sound in all our necessity, and it is the cry He has promised always to attend to, even as a loving mother to the voice of her child.
Prayer is the simplest means that man can use in coming to God. It is within reach of all,- the sick, the aged, the infirm, the paralytic, the blind, the poor, the unlearned, -all can pray. It avails you nothing to plead want of memory, and want of learning, and want of books, and want of scholarship in this matter. So long as you have a tongue to tell your soul’s state, you may and ought to pray. Those words, “Ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4v2), will be a fearful condemnation to many in the day of judgement.
I for one feel really challenged by all that. But also really encouraged that prayer doesn’t have to be this really complicated thing- it’s just a talking to God and asking him for the things we need. Let’s resolve to be people who pray. And if you’ve not tried it already, may I recommend to you a handy little app for iOS called PrayerMate which you might find useful in getting going in a habit of prayer!