I read a story this week that reflected on some early missionary efforts in the Africa bush. Apparently, some of the young converts were very earnest and regular in their personal devotional life. “Each one reportedly had a separate spot in the thicket where he would pour out his heart to God.
Over time the paths to these places became well worn. As a result, if one of these believers began to neglect prayer, it was soon apparent to the others. They would kindly remind the negligent one, ‘Brother, the grass grows on your path.’”
I think that might be an accurate assessment of many of our own prayer lives. As the demands of life and the lack of spiritual discipline is manifested, the proverbial grass quickly grows on our paths too.
The apostle Paul can help us with our grass problem. In the book of Ephesians, chapter one, he talks a lot about how he prays for his friends. Notice first that the occasion of his prayer for them was a good report. “I heard about your faith in the Lord and your love for each other…”(vs. 15).
Too often most of our prayer lives center around “intervention” kinds of prayer. We pray for something that has gone wrong, a trial, an error in judgment that has repercussions, a need that needs to be met and so on.
But Paul preempts that kind of thinking with persistent prayer on their behalf. “I have not stopped giving thanks for you…” In I Thess. 5:17, we are told to pray without ceasing. But that prayer doesn’t take the form of a non-stop verbal effort. It is the idea of punctuating our lives with intervals of recurring prayer. Paul thought of them often, prayed for them often.
And then he says in verse 17, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father would give you…” He hoped that God would grant them many things. So he was persistent in that prayer. And so must we be. The heaviest burdens on our hearts need to be shared with the Lord, again and again and again.
It’s not that He is reluctant to answer or callous to our concerns. He is just developing our dependence on Him. Prayer is a reflection of the condition of our soul. We are meant to be dependent people. We need the Lord to act on our behalf.
So, this week, maybe we all ought to take a look at our prayer paths and focus on a couple of things. Let’s make sure our prayers are not just reactive to difficulties, but proactive for our friends and family. Let’s purposefully develop a list of “good things” we can pray for on their behalf.
Let’s also show some persistence in our prayer life. Let’s pray many times during the day, not just during a designated moment. As we remember someone or some issue, let’s take it to the Lord right then. Silent prayers. Breath prayers. Mumbled prayers. Prayers that just spring out of our hearts. All of them.
That will help keep our paths cleared!