“I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands…” - 1 Timothy 2:8 Stealthily and silently it has come upon us again. I’m talking about Lent. The period of Lent encompasses the 44 days (counting Sundays; 40, if Sundays are not counted) before Easter Sunday.
The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement and self-denial. Its institutional purpose is heightened in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the death and burial of Jesus; and which ultimately culminates in the joyful celebration on Easter Sunday of His Resurrection.
In this article, as part of our Lenten devotion, I’d like to share with you two short comments on prayer.
The first, from E. M. Bounds (1835-1913), is a passage from his 1906 book Power Through Prayer. This explains that a holy Church and an effective ministry depend on prayer. A holy life would not be so rare or so difficult a thing if our devotions were not so short and hurried. A Christly temper in its sweet and passionless fragrance would not be so alien and hopeless a heritage if our closet [prayer room] stay were lengthened and intensified. We live shabbily because we pray meanly. Plenty of time to feast in our closets will bring marrow and fatness to our lives. Our ability to stay with God in our closet measures our ability to stay with God out of the closet … There are plenty of preachers who will preach and deliver great and eloquent addresses on the need of revival and the spread of the kingdom of God, but not many there are who will do that without which all preaching and organizing are worse than vain—pray. It is out of date, almost a lost art, and the greatest benefactor this age could have is the man who will bring the preachers and the Church back to prayer.
The second is from Augustine of Hippo (354 -430) the famous bishop, pastor, theologian, and superlative preacher. From A Man of Prayer before becoming a man of Words, in the section on what he calls “the sacred art” of preaching and prayer, Augustine calls for prayer before the sharing of God’s Word – a turning to God before turning to people – so to speak.
The aim of our orator, then, when speaking of things that are just and holy and good – and he should not speak of anything else – the aim, as I say, that he pursues to the best of his ability when he speaks of these things is to be listened to with understanding, with pleasure, and with obedience. He should be in no doubt that any ability he has and however much he has derives more from his devotion to prayer than his dedication to oratory; and so, by praying for himself and for those he is about to address, he must become a man of prayer before becoming a man of words. As the [time] of his address approaches, before he opens his thrusting lips he should lift his thirsting soul to God so that he may utter what he has drunk in and pour out what has filled him.
Bring back the power of prayer by prayer.
Rev. Robert Chew