I have always known the importance of prayer. It was a way of life in my farm y.Mama would gently chide us if we'd made great plans. "If it's the Lord's will, child," she'd say. Those words seemed to get us back into focus—on target. He had to be considered, asked, talked to, about. If it's the Lord's will.
So I started my journey in prayer actually hanging on to Mama's prayers. Hers were sufficient. I felt safe and content. Mama would pray about it.
I spent the summers of my young childhood at my grandparents home, "down the mountain," 18 miles away. My paper sack suitcase was packed and repacked long before school was out.
I never got homesick for my four siblings or my parents. I loved being the "only child" for the summer, roaming the creek bottoms, searching for wild flowers and pretty rocks.
During these times, talking to God came closer, however, for my grandparents had family prayer at night. If one read the Bible, the other led in prayer.
This, too, was security for me. Each of my grandparents could talk to God personally.
I learned, in the course of time, to "say prayers." I could recite The Lord's Prayer, table grace, and a bedtime prayer. I believe saying prayers is important for here is where we learn how to pray.
Dr. Edward Lawlor, retired General Superintendent of the Nazarene Church, once said, "Let the baby crawl around while you have your family devotions. Let the tears fall on his head. He will learn that family prayer time is a very important time of the family life."
It took a while, but I did move from saying prayers to praying prayers. I remember one of my first converts was Mabel. I learned a very valuable lesson in praying for her. I learned that praying for someone was more than just haphazardly "remembering" them in prayer. By the time I had actually "prayed her through" I had done some hard work of interceding for her!
Then over the years I moved to being in the attitude of prayer. I learned to breathe a prayer when I heard an ambulance siren, when I observed a parent showing anger at a child, when I read a horrid story of pain and suffering in the newspaper or saw it on TV, and when I encounter someone wanting to engage me in gossip.
Ruth Vaugh's book, Lord, Keep the Ducks has been a great inspiration to me. She tells of taking her daughter to school and noticing a lonely looking lad leaning against a tree. She prayed for him. She prayed in times of great discouragement when the Devil helped her to sec only the negative side of home mission work. She got the victory, though, when she told the Lord to "keep the ducks." She would carry on from there and went on to great time of soul winning in their tiny church.
J. Carl Jones, a retired Methodist minister, once said, "Pick out someone taking communion and pray for that person. Each time a new group goes for communion, do the same thing until it is time for you to go."
My own mother taught me to never be ashamed of what I had to put in the offering plate. "Just ask God to stretch it and use it for His glory and to help those in the church who handle the finances to have wisdom as they do business for God."
So my journey in prayer has taken me from saying prayers to praying prayers to being in the attitude of prayer. I had learned to pray by praying.
I also learned intercessory prayer. This is hard work. It is the "stick-to-it" prayer that the Devil battles most against. As long as we just "remember" someone in prayer, He doesn't get upset. But to plead, to wrestle, to be prostrate before God for someone's soul gets him very upset.
In prayer we learn to be persistent, to keep on keeping on. Think of that person at the altar. Would I be nonchalant if he were my brother? Absolutely not! I'd be at the altar pulling heaven and earth together to help him pray through.
My husband's roommate in college was in a terrible car accident and not expected to live. His mother looked at him and her loved ones gathered around the bed and said, "I'll be in the bathroom." Willard testified later that his mother went into the restroom and got down on her knees and never quit praying until she saw a shape getup from the right hand of the Father and go to the Father to plead for her son. Only then did she come back in the hospital room, take her son's hand and say to him in his unconscious state, "You're going to be all right, son."
Willard went on to be a successful pastor and is still pastoring. Why? Because his mother knew intercessory prayer.
Intercessory prayer is hard work. Romans 8:26 says that the Spirit intercedes for us with groaning that cannot be uttered. Just groaning. Have you been there in your prayer life? I have. I remember a time not too many years ago when [could only groan about a problem. Finally, after many months, I got to the place I could utter two words, "Oh, God!" And finally I could pray six words, "Oh, God! Make the way straight!" It was undoubtedly the hardest year of my prayer journey.
From saying prayers to becoming a prayer warrior should be our goal. We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the power of darkness. Satan is very real.
We must actually do combat in these wicked times if we are to save our children, grandchildren, and neighbors. It is extremely exhausting and the Devil will fight us every inch of the way. He'll put other thoughts in our minds when we focus on praying for a person. He'll cause the phone to ring, a salesman to come, the kids to squabble, a dozen things to interfere with the thought process of praying. Someone said that Satan trembles when the weakest Christian gets on his knees. I certainly believe that!
So, where are you in your journey in prayer? Are you still saying prayers? Have you progressed to praying prayers? Can you intercede and be persistent until God feels your tug on His sleeve? Are you a prayer warrior doing battle for Him? Can anyone call you and ask for prayer and know that you'll not stop until you've prayed through?
I believe it takes a lifetime to learn to pray. I know one thing—He's brought me a long way—a mighty long way in my journey.
For many years now, Philippians 4:6 has been my mainstay. I learned from a young mother, one place I lived, to "Worry about nothing but pray about everything." Today ! don't even know where Paula is, but I'm thankful she made this Scripture real to me.
Happy trails to you in your journey in prayer.