Nineteenth century British preacher Charles Spurgeon said: “We should pray when we are in a praying mood, for it would be sinful to neglect so fair an opportunity. We should pray when we are not in a praying mood, for it would be dangerous to remain in so unhealthy a condition.”
Recently I received an email from a missionary in Eastern Europe. He had taken the words of Spurgeon to heart and was requesting prayer that the Lord would draw him into prayer. His problem, he explained, was that he just couldn’t seem to get focused in the morning. He didn’t feel like praying, even when he knew he should.
Has that ever happened to you? It happens to me on a reoccurring basis. Fortunately, this missionary knew who held the key: God Himself. He requested prayer, and I will continue to pray for him. But I also wrote back to him something that has always helped me.
John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, said: “Our heart faces many difficulties in the time of prayer. No one knows how many by-ways and back-lanes our heart may use to slip away from the presence of God. . . . My heart when I go to prayer is disinclined to go to God; and when it is with Him, so disinclined to stay with Him.”
I’ve learned not to trust my heart always to have the desire to seek God. I know it won’t. Eph. 6:18 says, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests”—for it is only the work of the Holy Spirit that enables us to pray as we ought.
Luke 11:13 says, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” In regard to this passage, Spurgeon said, “It appears plainly enough from the text that this Holy Spirit is to be given in answer to prayer. Did not we hear some time ago from certain wise brethren that we were never to pray for the Spirit? I think I heard it said often, ‘We have the Holy Spirit, and therefore we are not to pray for it.’ If we have life, we are to pray that we have it more abundantly. If we have the Holy Spirit so that we are quickened, and saved, we do not ask for Him in that capacity, but we ask for His power in other directions, and for His grace in other forms.”
Since the day of my conversion, I have been dependent on God through the Holy Spirit to give me the right desires, and then through the Holy Spirit to give me the ability or power to carry them out. Spurgeon said, “Oh, if any of you are but just Christians, and are not glorifying God, nor living near Him, nor mighty in prayer . . . I beseech you remember, if you have not the Spirit it is because you do not seek Him persistently, do not seek Him with a deep sense of your need of Him.”
Now, whenever I find myself not in a praying mood or inclined to say, “I just can’t pray, my heart’s not in it, or I’m too distracted,” I remind myself that the Spirit of God can. So I ask the Holy Spirit for help . . . and I pray!
—Ed D. Kleiman
Used by permission of Pray! Copyright © 2003, Issue 36, The Navigators. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. www.navpress.com.