The Gospel of Luke gives us Jesus’ great Parable of the Persistent Widow, in which he encourages us “to pray and not give up.” (Luke 18: 1-5)
The Apostle Paul makes similar appeals: “Continue steadfastly in prayer.” (Colossians 4:2) “Be constant in prayer!” (Romans 12:13)
The highly successful sporting goods company Nike has promoted its products by challenging us to “Just do it!” This advice might be just what is needed also in the realm of prayer.
People often ask something like this: “How can I gain a more satisfying, nourishing prayer life?” Have you ever felt such a need?
I have, and early on I assumed that the answer lay primarily in finding some new style or form or vocabulary to use in praying. Over the years, however, I have come to believe that a more promising approach to a more fruitful experience of praying might be simply to persist in the way suggested by the Nike motto.
Years ago I learned from fellow minister/author Philip Yancey not to ask myself, “Do you feel like exercising today?” Instead, I just do it. Why? Because I know that regular exercise can bring long-term benefits to my heart and lungs, enable me to more vigorously enjoy other things like yard work and tennis, relieve stress and refresh my mind. So I exercise every day whether I am in the mood for it or not.
Some great writers tell about requiring themselves to go to their desks every day whether or not they feel like it in order to be ready if and when some great inspiration should come to them. The discipline itself, they say, seems often to be a catalyst that leads them to great ideas. You might have experienced some days when you simply were not in the mood to pray but did so anyway out of a sense of spiritual duty, only to be surprised by the serendipity of an enriching time of prayer.
What do you think about all of this? What has been your experience of praying? Perhaps you already regularly experience quite satisfying times of prayer. If so, I celebrate and give thanks with you.
If not, or if you are procrastinating about praying, do you think you should “Just do it?”
THE REV. G. DANIEL MCCALL IS THE MINISTER OF PASTORAL CARE AT FAIRVIEW PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN NORTH AUGUSTA.