Christianity · Theology

If One Person Could Pray

Hello, everyone–

I’ve recently started reading a one-year devotional called Evenings with Tozer (referring to the twentieth-century theologian A.W. Tozer) every morning…and never before have I seen such wonderful insight into the application of Scripture. The heart-piercing, simple, and passion-filled beauty of his prose makes me want to read the work in one sitting!

One of his messages, though, reached out to me like none of his other devotionals did. It was the January 10 entry, titled “Every One Must Pray As If He Alone Could Pray.” He proceeded to discuss how to be “more at home in his prayer chamber than before the public,” how seminaries cannot teach people into developing a better prayer life, and how “[p]raying itself must be the work of the individual.” For days after I read Tozer’s thoughts, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What if I was the only one who could pray?” Here is what I thought of.

I’d be more desperate in prayer.

That is, instead of saying some quick blessing or praying a silent prayer, we’d be in tears, opening our Bibles, and crying out to God. There’d be much less insincerity, since we would be walking in a physical world where nothing seemed like home. Now, I still hunger for heaven, but I have several places I hold onto here as well: my house, my church, basically any place where fellow believers meet and strengthen each other, where the influence of “the world” seems minimal.

But in a world where “the world” creeps into every corner of life, screaming for attention, and tempting us over and over to relish in it, wouldn’t we long for heaven even more? Wouldn’t we pray more? Wouldn’t we know God as if He were our constant Friend (and He is)? Even writing this convicts me.

I’d be more dependent on God.

It’s the fundamental principle behind prayer–the more we pray, the more we depend on God. If no one else could pray, we’d pray more; and thus, we’d also depend on God more.

But I’m not talking about a dependence on the Lord characterized by making excuses not to pray, saying that God would take care of it even if a person didn’t pray. That is not dependence at all. That is false humility parading around in a mask of feigned Christian virtue, saying something that’s true but at the same time rejecting the torn veil–belittling the magnificent, incomprehensible fact that we can now directly commune with God through prayer. What I truly mean by dependence on God through prayer is utterly different.

Dependence on God has a prerequisite of sorts: the understanding of how much one is a sinner unworthy of His love. (That’s an idea borrowed from Tozer, my pastor, and other great theologians.) And when we pray, we are drawn closer to that humble attitude. Thus, the most mature Christians who have ever walked the face of the earth (1) owed God an infinite debt for which they had absolutely nothing to pay, (2) converted, (3) “pray[ed] without ceasing,” and (4) as a result of their prayers became more dependent on God. That’s how the simple, oft-told yet not-often-practiced cycle works, because of the simple truth behind it: prayer is the defining mark of true dependence on God. (I read something like this in either Evenings with Tozer or The Pursuit of God.)

But going back to the “what if” scenario: If only I could pray (or you, or someone else who is/was a believer), if being the only one who could pray would heighten the chances of us being more desperate, if in being more desperate we’d better realize just how empty the world is, if in understanding the falleness of the world we’d understand the fallenness of our own souls, wouldn’t it make sense that we’d be more dependent on God?

I’d be reaching out to the unsaved (i.e., everyone else) much more than I am now.

Here I may seem to go off on a bit of a tangent, because now we are getting to the part about the action that prayer should motivate us to take–that of evangelism.

See, when we recognize the falleness of the world and then take it to prayer with God, we should be convicted. Our humility in prayer is the lens through which we flash back to the times when we’ve tried to scrape the hope-ravenous people of the world from our shoulders, yet also through which we are determined to let God lead us in changing all that by rejoicing always with an unceasing prayer in our hearts (1 Thessalonians 5:17). For evangelism cannot exist without prayer.

Doubtless, prayer is the first step toward evangelism; for as mentioned earlier, we must be in that humble state of mind before we can witness significant spiritual transformation in the hearts of God’s special creation. However, prayer alone simply cannot be enough for those we are physically able to assist spiritually and/or physically, for “faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26) We must have the courage to actually bear a lasting flame in our hearts in this world that seems wholly dominated by the prince of darkness, deceit, and danger. We must say to our Father in heaven, “Lord, let me go to You for everything, for I want to share with Your children everything You have done for me.” We must take that step into the darkness so we can actually illuminate something. A candle is no good at all in sunny weather. It’ll do a better job in an eclipse.

Thus, prayer must motivate our evangelism. Yet evangelism itself can take many different forms. It can be as simple as giving someone a cup of water in our Lord’s name (Mark 9:41); it can be as complex as reaching out in a tramautic event. It must, however, involve “character and conduct, for it is only then that we can give God converts.” (Life of Christ Teacher’s Edition, published by Positive Action Bible Curriculum, Lesson 30, Fourth Edition, written by Frank Hamrick)

Nevertheless, every bit of our waking life must start with prayer. It’s what makes our life come full circle. It’s what puts us in perspective. It’s what gives us that blessed ability to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7) If we were the only ones who could pray, how much more would we be able to say so truthfully? How much more would we reflect old Epaphras’ heart for prayer, someone Paul commended as “a bondservant of Christ…always laboring fervently for you in prayers” (Colossians 4:12, NKJV)?

Disclaimer: While the advice here may be helpful, please note that neither I nor anyone else is the only one who can pray. Jesus died for all, so all would be able to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16, NKJV)

Keep fighting, brethren. Do the work of the Lord, and linger at His side. Remember His love, and live in accordance with it.


~Sarah Merly

September 21, 2017

Isaiah 53