“Pray continually” 1 Thessalonians 5:17
The church father, Augustine, said, “When faith fails, prayer dies. In order to pray, then, we must have faith; and that our faith fail not, we must pray. Faith pours forth prayer; and the pouring forth of the heart in prayer gives steadfastness to faith.”
The enemy of prayer is self-sufficiency. We struggle to pray because deep down we’re convinced of our capacity to cope. Self-sufficiency opposes faith. Yet prayer begins when our human capacity ends – when we stop taking pride in our ability to order the world without help from God, and acknowledge that only He can supply all our needs.
The story is told of a young boy standing on the bank of the Ganges River in India. He was watching a Hindu holy man praying and decided that when the man completed his prayers he would go over and ask him to teach him how to pray.
When the holy man was finished, the boy walked over and asked to be taught how to pray. The holy man studied the boy intently for some minutes then suddenly gripped the boys head in his hands and thrust the boy under the water. The boy struggled frantically to free himself, but to no avail. The holy man’s grip was steely firm.
Just as the boy thought he would die for lack of oxygen the holy man released his grip. The boy lay on the river bank spluttering and gasping for air. Finally he had enough strength to ask for an explanation. “Why did you do that?” he demanded. Looking at the boy steadily the holy man replied, “I just gave you your first lesson.” “What, what do you mean?” asked the exasperated boy. “Well,” said the holy man, “when you long to pray as much as you longed to breathe when your head was under the water – only then am I able to teach you to pray.”
With this in mind let’s examine our hearts. Do we long to pray as much as we long to breathe? Most of us probably don’t. But we can take a meaningful step toward God today by admitting our self-sufficiency and calling on Him to increase our faith.