Living prayerfully

July 11th, 2014

Scripture Sentence

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him; "Lord, teach us to pray." Luke 11:1

Scripture Readings

*Luke 11:2-13; Acts 4:23-31
Luke 18:1-14; Romans 12:9-21
John 17:6-19; 1 Thessalonians 3:6-13
John 17:20-26

* Asterisk indicates text recommended for preaching and teaching.

Silence for Meditation


Most of us have a strong desire to deepen and strengthen our sense of living with God in the daily activities of life. In our better moments we want a more intimate relationship with God. We really do want to experience God’s companionship in all of life because we know that life is incomplete without this central experience of God. We want to claim and to enjoy our full inheritance as children of God. And yet, more often than not our desires are snuffed out in their infancy, and we are captured by the pressures, enticements, and false rewards of our culture.

John Wesley saw and experienced what we see and experience. It is impossible to live as a Christian if we are un-attached to God. Our spiritual and even our physical lives become a shambles without the constant companionship with God that prayer alone can make possible. Consequently, Wesley determined to be a man of ardent and consistent prayer. An exact replica of his disciplined life of prayer may not be possible for us, but it can be instructive as we fashion our own way of living with God in the world.

Wesley knew that a life of prayer was not an accident or a natural consequence of just living. He was convinced that a life of prayer was the result of a determined and disciplined effort. He knew from personal experience that without this disciplined effort, prayer would become secondary and our relationship with God left to suffocate under the cares and delights of the world. So, the disciplined life of prayer became a priority that he honored for his entire lifetime.

Even a casual acquaintance with his journal will reveal that this disciplined life of prayer did not diminish his commitment to or involvement with the world of everyday cares and affairs. As a matter of fact, it seems clear that his involvement in the affairs of life received direction and power from the priority given to prayer.

John Wesley taught and lived a life of private, public, family, and community prayer. His earliest publishing venture was to provide direction and example for the person seeking to live a life of prayer. Prayers for families, children, clergy, the poor, prisoners, the sick, governmental and ecclesiastical authority, and prayers for self are found throughout his journal and sermons. Prayer was integral to his life.

When we read Wesley’s journal and reflect upon his disciplined life, we can easily be convinced that such a life of prayer is impossible in our time and in our situation. Life is more complex and is changing more rapidly now than in the eighteenth century. The pressures on our time and life are different and more varied than the pressures John Wesley experienced. On the other hand, this kind of reflection on Wesley’s life makes it clear that he often lived in a time squeeze and felt himself to be in a pressure cooker just as we do. Looking back over two centuries it is easy to see that this pressure cooker was, for the most part, self imposed and fueled by his sense of mission. He was able to live creatively within this pressure because he continued a disciplined life of prayer.

Prayer is a natural part of our human experience. All of us pray. Sometimes we pray only when we are at the peak of our powers and simply must thank someone; and sometimes we pray when we are at the very depth of despair and we simply cry out to God in our agony. Both of these times of prayer are natural and appropriate. But they are not enough to sustain us or to nurture our relationship with God.

Therefore we, as Wesley before us, Luther before him, Augustine before him, and Jesus before them all, need to establish a disciplined life of prayer. Since each of us is a unique creation of God, our life of prayer will be unique as well. We may each pray at different times, use different resources, pray for different lengths of time, pray more in solitude or pray more in community. It is important to recognize our differences as we fashion our way of living prayerfully.

Prayer is God’s greatest provision for our spiritual life. Our relationship with God is impossible without prayer. We cannot know God’s mind or heart without prayer. We cannot receive God’s direction, hear God’s voice, or respond to God’s call without prayer. Since this is true, prayer is also God’s greatest provision for all of life. It is the supreme means of grace given to all humankind.

Prayer was so very important for Jesus that he left even the needy crowd to pray (Mark 6:31). It was so important to Wesley that he established a rigorous discipline of prayer, lest this lifeline to God be broken and life itself be lost. How important is this means of grace to you?

Spiritual Reading from John Wesley's Sermons

Sermon 46, The Wilderness State, Vol. 6, p. 86 

If, upon the closest search, you can find no sin of commission which causes the cloud upon your soul, inquire next, if there be not some sin of omission which separates between God and you.... Do you walk in all the ordinances of God? In public, family, private prayer? If not, if you habitually neglect any of these known duties, how can you expect that the light of his countenance should continue to shine upon you?... When you hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way, walk thou in it; harden not your heart: be no more disobedient to the heavenly calling. Till the sin, whether of omission or commission, be removed, all comfort is false and deceitful. It is only skinning the wound over, which still festers and rankles beneath. Look for no peace within, till you are at peace with God; which cannot be without fruits meet for repentance.

Sermon 92, On Zeal, Vol. 7, p. 60  

In a Christian believer love sits upon the throne which is erected in the inmost soul; namely, love of God and man, which fills the whole heart, and reigns without a rival. In a circle near the throne are all holy tempers; longsuffering, gentleness, meekness, fidelity, temperance: and if any other were comprised in the mind which was in Christ Jesus. In an exterior circle are all the works of mercy, whether to the souls or bodies of men.... Next to these are those that are usually termed works of piety; reading and hearing the word, public, family, private prayer, receiving the Lord’s Supper, fasting or abstinence. Lastly, that his followers may the more effectually provoke one another to love, holy tempers, and good works, our blessed Lord has united them together in one body, the Church.

Sermon 43, The Scripture Way of Salvation, Vol. 6, p. 51 

But what good works are those, the practice of which you affirm to be necessary to sanctification? First, all works of piety; such as public prayer, family prayer, and praying in our closet; receiving the supper of the Lord; searching the Scriptures, by hearing, reading, meditating; and using such a measure of fasting or abstinence as our bodily health allows.

Sermon 16, The Means of Grace, Vol. 5, p. 192 

If it be possible for any direction to be more clear, it is that which God hath given us by the Apostle, with regard to prayer of every kind, public or private, and the blessing annexed thereto…If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally.

Sermon 94, On Family Religion, Vol. 7, p. 81

May we not endeavour, Secondly, to instruct them? to take care that every person who is under our roof have all such knowledge as is necessary to salvation?... and you should take care that they have some time every day for reading meditation, and prayer; and you should inquire whether they do actually employ that time in the exercises for which it is allowed. Neither should any day pass without family prayer, seriously and solemnly performed.

Sermon 4, Scriptural Christianity, Vol. 5, p. 51

May it not be one of the consequences of this, that so many of you are a generation of triflers...triflers with God, with one another, and with your own souls? For, how few of you spend, from one week to another, a single hour in private prayer! How few have any thought of God in the general tenor of your conversation! Who of you is, in any degree, acquainted with the work of his Spirit, his supernatural work in the souls of men?

Closing Affirmation

The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven....The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. James 5:15-16

excerpt from: A Wesleyan Spiritual Reader by Rueben P. Job Copyright © 1998 by Abingdon Press. Used with permission.

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