Watts on Prayer #5 – Persuading Us to Pray

I’m in the middle of a writing retreat, working on a book for Crossway Publishers. I mentioned a while back that this book was going to cause me cut back on blogging somewhat.

However, I wanted to finish this series today so that I could move on to other things next week. Watts’ final chapter is called “Persuasive Arguments to Learn to Pray.” He begins:

“It is to little purpose that the nature of prayer is explained, so many rules framed and directions given to teach persons this divine skill of prayer, if they are not persuaded of the necessity and usefulness of it.” (p. 167)

In other words, it’s useless talking about it if we don’t actually do it. He lays out six reasons why we should learn to pray.

1.    There is such a thing as correspondence with heaven, and prayer is a great part of it while we dwell on earth.

One of the greatest joys of my life is talking with Julie, my bride of almost thirty years. There are numerous times we’re engaged in conversation and I realize how I look forward to the simple act of conversing with her. How much greater our joy should be in speaking with our heavenly Father!

2.    Prayer is necessary to our calling.

Watts points out that prayer is one of the things we do most frequently as Christians. Every believer in Christ, then, has the joy and privilege of seeking to mature in their prayer life.

3.    Our prayers bring God delight and can be advantageous to ourselves and those who join in prayer with us.

I distinctly remember occasions when I’ve heard some mature saint pray and become aware of how much I wanted my relationship with God to grow.

“What divine impressions of holiness have you felt in public worship in the congregation when this duty has been performed with holy skill and fervency, and in that prayer you have received more solid edification than from the whole sermon?” (p. 174)

4.    Our prayers can either support or detract from the honor of God and the reputation of Christianity in the world.

One of the reasons people don’t see prayer as necessary or helpful stems from hearing vague, faithless, and insincere prayers uttered by others. Watts reminds us that those around us should see something of the beauty of Christ through our prayers. It’s not just about what I’m feeling in my heart, but what others perceive.

5.    Learning to pray with the assistance of the Spirit is relatively easy compared to learning a trade or an art.

How odd that we so rarely hear teaching on one of the most basic and consistent practices of the Christian life. Even more ironic is the number of us who think our only need is to pray more, rather than to spend time learning how to pray. Again, prayer can be as thought of as simply talking to God. But that’s no reason for us not to mature in the depth, consistency, passion, and breadth of the conversation.

6.    If we don’t learn how to pray it will have a negative effect on others.

Watts describes one possible effect:

“The ignorant part of your household will sleep under you, while the more knowing will be in pain for you. And perhaps you will sometimes think to make amends for the dullness of the devotion by increasing the length of it. But this is to add one error to another and lay more burdens upon those who are weary.” (p. 184)

Been there, done that. We might also decide to reduce our prayers to repeated forms, or grow weary of praying all together.

What will you do to grow in your prayer life? I pray that by God’s grace you’ll do more than simply feel guilty about not praying more. God is ready and able to assist us as we take pains to deepen the quality of your relationship with Him through the immeasurably sweet practice of prayer. Who knows what joy, faith, and fruitfulness lies ahead? One thing is sure – our Savior is eager to meet us every step of the way.

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