If I were to offer you one hundred dollars to sit in a chair for thirty minutes every day at six a.m., would you do it? How about for five hundred dollars? A thousand? We find it difficult to dedicate daily time to prayer. How little value we place upon our time spent alone with God.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)
Your time is valuable, and it cannot be bought or sold. We all have a set amount of time on this earth, and nothing can change that. If we are going to spend our time on any activity, we should be certain that it is worth it. So is prayer worth the time?
For Jesus it certainly was.
All throughout the Gospels we find Jesus making time to pray. In all of human history, no other person’s time held more value. Still, Jesus set aside time exclusively for his Father. In the Gospel of Mark it says:
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.(Mark 1:35).
So here we have Jesus, making prayer his first priority, getting up before dawn to seek the presence of his Father. But why? Couldn’t Jesus do the things he did without prayer? Didn’t he know the difference between right and wrong? He was the Son of God after all. Wasn’t there a lot of good he could have been doing instead, like healing the sick? Why did he pray so much?
We are creatures of action. Early man, when he was hungry, went out and killed an animal to eat. We like to be able to execute a plan. But we are spiritual creatures as well. Perhaps the only thing that sets humans apart from the animals is our desire to seek and know God.
Ironically though, our flesh rejects acts of faith. We want to act instead of being silent and still in God’s presence. Modern society tries to crush the Spirit of prayer out of us. It is no wonder that mental illness has become the developed world’s number one disease.
It is only in moments of private communication that we can come into direct and intimate contact with God.
Some argue that there are many ways to pray. For example, some say that helping others is a form of prayer. I disagree. Helping others is helping others, and helping is a good thing. But prayer is prayer, and, believe it or not, it is the best thing (Luke 10:42).
I can tell my six year old, “Listen son. We are going to spend the whole morning together, just you and me, OK?” Then I can open up my computer and spend the whole day working to make money to buy food for my family, while my son plays with his toy cars on the floor next to me. Maybe I will even donate the money to charity. My son and I are together, and I’m doing something good, right? Sure, but I’m not engaged with my son. What I need to do is close my computer, get on the floor, grab a toy car and play. Vroooooom! It is the same way with God. We need to stop everything and give him our complete attention.
In the field of neurotheology, scientists at some of the world’s most prestigious medical institutions have shown that prayer can actually sculpt the brain, giving us a way to change our thought patterns. Here science confirms faith. This is something Jesus already knew and taught over 2000 years ago. However, Jesus digs deeper than what can be demonstrated in scientific studies alone. Prayer is a life changing and life giving force. Jesus desires to change our hearts, not just our heads.
If a king or a president planned to come visit you at home, would you schedule some other activity for the same time? Of course not. There is no greater King than Jesus Christ. So give him the time and attention he deserves.
Prayer does not promise a life full of butterflies and roses, and it should not anesthetize you spiritually. Instead, prayer promises a life full of the Spirit in communion with our Creator.
(This post is an excerpt from my book Be With Him, Be Like Him: Why and how to pray.)