During Jesus’ life and ministry, he regularly advocated and practiced the discipline of private, personal prayer. For Jesus, public prayer had a didactic purpose. For example, Jesus offered a model prayer in teaching his disciples to pray. Then, Jesus specifically instructed his disciples, “But when you pray, go into your room, and close the door” (Mt 6:6).
Just as Jesus and the early disciples highly valued prayer, personal prayer is vitally important to those who follow Jesus today. In emphasizing the importance of prayer, popular author Richard Foster contends that “prayer catapults us onto the frontier of the spiritual life.” <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
The challenges of our day call for a renewed emphasis on the discipline of personal and private prayer, the kind of discipline that is forged in the daily grind of responsibility and opportunity. Prayer should never be reduced to a personal shopping list. Prayer, as a personal discipline, becomes an intimate, honest and ongoing conversation with God.
As you contemplate the value of prayer in your own life, reflect on the value of prayer in the lives of people of faith across the generations:
- Prayer—secret, fervent, believing prayer—lies at the root of all personal godliness. –William Carey
- Prayer is the inner bath of love into which the soul plunges itself. – St. John Vianney
- Pray as you can, not as you can’t. – Dom Chapman
- I keep myself by a simple attention and a general fond regard to God, which I refer to as an actual presence of God. Or, to put it another way, an habitual, silent, and secret conversation with God. – Brother Lawrence
- True, whole prayer is nothing but love. – <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />St. Augustine
- Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. – Richard Foster
- All of the strength that may come through prayer comes from the goodness of God, for he is the goodness of everything. – Julian of Norwich
- One cannot begin to face the real difficulties of the life of prayer and meditation unless one is perfectly content to be a beginner and really experience himself as one who knows little or nothing and has a desperate need to learn the bear rudiments. – Thomas Merton
- Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – St. Paul (Phil 4:6)
Barry Howard is senior minister of First Baptist Church in Corbin, Ky.