My wife and I love to go on trips together. Over the years, her love for the great outdoors has opened my eyes to see the need for adventuring. Great snacks, an open road, and some good tunes or podcasts always make for a good time together. However, before any trip can begin, I always have to ask, “What have I forgotten?” This question is almost always followed by a litany of items my wife not only knows I have missed but can tell me exactly where those things are located. It might be socks or a phone charger, but I have inevitably neglected to pack something. Embarrassingly, it is usually an item that is so obviously a necessity but has slipped my mind for one reason or the other. Fortunately, she saves me from being unprepared for the voyage we are about to take.
Are there any aspects that we might have neglected to “pack” for our walk with Christ when it comes to our spiritual lives? Are there any practices or disciplines that we have forgotten about that might be obvious but are still overlooked? I believe so. Unfortunately, we might remember the less essential aspects and completely blank on the pillars of what faith should be. When this happens, we are like the kid at Church Camp who remembers to bring a 64 pack of fruit snacks but forgets their Bible at home. They may become their cabin’s prohibitive favorite camper, but they have forgotten the whole reason for going to Camp.
There are many things that I lose track of in my spiritual life, but at the top of that list is ashamedly… PRAYER. Can you relate? I might find myself spending hours at a time studying the Bible, but sadly only spend a fraction of that time praying. This imbalance is not only unhealthy spiritually speaking, but it is damaging and harmful. At the end of the day, if I walk away with a complete understanding of the arguments for the date of the book of Revelation but never talked to God the Father… how did that day really help my relationship with God? Jesus warned the Pharisees of this very problem in Matthew 23:23-24, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” The Pharisees could tell you the order of all 613 commands of the Mosaic Law, but did not know who God was at all. That is why Jesus would say this in Matthew 15:8, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.”
The one aspect that distinguishes biblical heroes of faith and Christians today has to be their dedication to prayer. Joshua prayed, and God made the sun stand still in Joshua 10. Elijah prayed, and God held back the rains for three and a half years in 1 Kings 17-18. Daniel prayed every morning, noon, and night… and God allowed him to prosper even in captivity. All the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 were so heavily dependent on prayer, and if you ask me, that is what separates them from Christians today. Sadly, prayer has become an obligatory process to complete before meals… instead of the life-giving, life-sustaining, and life-altering practice it was intended to be. Prayer is able to heal: the sick (James 5:14-15), the anxious (Philippians 4:6-7), a nation (2 Chronicles 7:14), the wayward (James 5:16), and our relationship with God (Jeremiah 29:12-13) among a host of other things.
Ephesians 6:10-18 shows us the whole armor of God. Many Christians gird their waste with truth and put on the breastplate of righteousness. Some even shod their feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace and take on the shield of faith. They put on the helmet of salvation and take up the sword of the Spirit…. but if this is all we put on, we are not wearing the FULL armor of God. “Praying always with all prayer and supplications in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18. Prayer is the final piece of the armor, and without it, we are not ready to stand in the evil day. When prayer is missing, the rest of the armor is pointless due to the gaping hole that prayer is intended to cover.
If we are going to wear the Name of Christ, we must emulate Christ. No one in the history of humanity has ever dedicated themselves to prayer the way our Lord and Savior did. Jesus prayed without ceasing (Hebrews 5:7; Matthew 14:23, 26:36; Mark 1:35,6:46; Luke 5:16, 6:12; John 17:1-26). Many Christians live their lives feeling like something is missing, wondering why others seem to have a closer relationship with God or are closer to other brothers and sisters in Christ. They do not understand why they do not have it because they study the Bible, come to worship, serve, and do all the things everyone else is doing. Perhaps the thing that is missing is an actual communicative relationship with God. Communication is the cornerstone to any good relationship, and without prayer, our relationship with God is doomed.
-Ben Hogan, Minister of Evangelism