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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Prayer is an unnatural activity.
From birth we have been learning the rules of self-reliance as we strain and struggle to achieve self-sufficiency. Prayer flies in the face of those deep-seated values. It is an assault on human autonomy, an indictment of independent living. To people in the fast lane, determined to make it on their own, prayer is an embarrassing interruption.
Prayer is alien to our proud human nature. And yet somewhere, someplace, probably all of us reach the point of falling to our knees, bowing our heads, fixing our attention on God and praying. We may look both ways to be sure no one is watching; we may blush; but in spite of the foreignness of the activity, we pray.
Why are we drawn to prayer? I see two possible explanations.
Surrounded by God's Presence
We pray because, by intuition or experience, we understand that the most intimate communion with God comes only through prayer.
Ask people who have faced tragedy or trial, heartbreak or grief, failure or defeat, loneliness or discrimination. Ask what happened in their souls when they finally fell on their knees and poured out their hearts to the Lord.
Such people have told me, "I can't explain it, but I felt like God understood me."
Others have said, "I felt surrounded by his presence."
Or, "I felt a comfort and peace I'd never felt before."
The apostle Paul knewthis experience. Writing to the Christians at Philippi he said, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).
Several years ago my father, still a relatively young man and extremely active, died of a heart attack. As I drove to my mother's house in Michigan, I wondered how I would continue to function without the person who believed in me more than anyone else ever has or ever will.
That night in bed, I wrestled with God. "Why did this happen? How can I put it all together in my mind and in my life? Am I going to recover from losing my father? If you really love me, how could you do this to me?"
Suddenly, in the middle of the night, everything changed. It was as if I had turned a corner and was now facing a new direction. God simply said, "I'm able. I'm enough for you. Right now you doubt this, but trust me."
That experience may sound unreal, but its results were unmistakable. After that tear-filled, despairing night, I was never again tortured by doubteither about God's care for me or about my ability to handle life without Dad. Grief, yeshis death wounded me deeply, and I will always miss him. But it did not set me adrift without anchor or compass. In the middle of the bleakest night I have ever known, one overpoweringly intimate moment with God gave me courage, reassurance and hope.
An Intimate Relationship
Prayer has not always been my strong suit. For many years, even as senior pastor of a large church, I knew more about prayer than I ever practiced in my own life. I have a racehorse temperament, and the tugs of self-sufficiency and self-reliance are very real to me. I didn't want to get off the fast track long enough to find out what prayer is all about.
But the Holy Spirit gave me a leading so direct that I couldn't ignore it, argue against it or disobey it. The leading was to explore, study and practice prayer until I finally understood it. I obeyed that leading. I read fifteen or twenty major books on prayer, some old and some new. I studied almost every passage on prayer in the Bible.
And then I did something absolutely radical: I prayed.
It has been twenty years since I began taking time to pray, and my prayer life has been transformed. The greatest fulfillment has not been the list of miraculous answers to prayers I have received, although that has been wonderful. The greatest thrill has been the qualitative difference in my relationship with God. And when I started to pray, I didn't know that was going to happen.
God and I used to be rather casually related to one another. We didn't get together and talk very much. Now, however, we get together a lot, not talking on the run but carrying on substantial, soul-searching conversations every morning for a good chunk of time. I feel as if I've gotten to know God a lot better since I started praying.
If the Holy Spirit is leading you to learn more about prayer, you are about to embark on a wonderful adventure. As you grow in prayer, God will reveal more of himself to you, breathing more of his life into your spirit. Mark my words, that will be the most fulfilling and rewarding part of your experience with prayer, more so even than the answers to prayer you are sure to receive. Fellowship with God, trust, confidence, peace, reliefthese wonderful feelings will be yours as you learn how to pray.
A Channel for God's Power
Through prayer God gives us his peace, and that is one reason even self-sufficient people fall on their knees and pour out their hearts to him. But there is another reason. People are drawn to prayer because they know that God's power flows primarily to people who pray.
The Scriptures overflow with passages teaching that our almighty, omnipotent God is ready, willing and able to answer the prayers of his followers. The miracles of Israel's exodus from Egypt and journey to the Promised Land were all answers to prayer. So were Jesus' miracles of stilling storms, providing food, healing the sick and raising the dead. As the early church formed and grew and spread throughout the world, God answered the believers' continual prayers for healing and deliverance.
God's power can change circumstances and relationships. It can help us face life's daily struggles. It can heal psychological and physical problems, remove marriage obstructions, meet financial needsin fact, it can handle any kind of difficulty, dilemma or discouragement.
Someone has said that when we work, we work; but when we pray, God works. His supernatural strength is available to praying people who are convinced to the core of their beings that he can make a difference. Skeptics may argue that answered prayers are only coincidences, but as an English archbishop once observed, "It's amazing how many coincidences occur when one begins to pray."
Hands Raised to Heaven
A story in the Old Testament has persuaded me more than any other biblical passage that prayer has significant results. It is found in Exodus 17:8-13:
The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, "Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands."
So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands upone on one side, one on the otherso that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
Moses, Israel's famous leader, is faced with a crisis. An enemy army has just arrived near Israel's desert camp intent on wiping out Israel.
Moses calls in his most capable military leader for a discussion of military strategy. After a thorough planning session, Moses announces the approach they will take. "Joshua," he says, "tomorrow you take the best fighting men we have; lead them out on the plains to meet the enemy; and fight with courage. I am going to take two men with me, climb the hill that overlooks the plains and raise my hands toward heaven. I'm going to pray that God will pour out courage, valor, coordination and supernatural protection on our troops. Then I'm going to watch and see what God does."
God's Power Released
Joshua agrees. He believes in prayer, and he would rather have Moses' prayer support than his military support. What happens, of course, is that when Moses' hands are stretched heavenward, Joshua's troops prevail in battle, fighting with a divine intensity that drives back the enemy.
But, as can be expected, Moses' arms grow weary. He drops them to his sides and walks around the hill, viewing the battle. To his horror, the tide of battle shifts right before his eyes. Joshua's troops are being struck down; the enemy is gaining a toehold.
Moses stretches his arms toward heaven again and brings the matter to the Lord. Immediately the battle's momentum shifts back to Joshua and the Israelites, and once again they are driving the enemy back. And then it strikes Moses. He must keep his arms stretched toward heaven in prayer if he wants to open the door for God's supernatural intervention on the battlefield.
Moses discovered that day that God's prevailing power is released through prayer. When I began praying in earnest, I discovered the same thing. It boils down to this: if you are willing to invite God to involve himself in your daily challenges, you will experience his prevailing powerin your home, in your relationships, in the marketplace, in the schools, in the church, wherever it is most needed.
That power may come in the form of wisdoman idea you desperately need and can't come up with yourself. It may come in the form of courage greater than you could ever muster. It may come in the form of confidence or perseverance, uncommon staying power, a changed attitude toward a spouse or a child or a parent, changed circumstances, maybe even outright miracles. However it comes, God's prevailing power is released in the lives of people who pray.
Keep the Power Flowing
The other side of that equation is sobering: it is hard for God to release his power in your life when you put your hands in your pockets and say, "I can handle it on my own." If you do that, don't be surprised if one day you get the nagging feeling that the tide of battle has shifted against you and that you're fairly powerless to do anything about it.
Prayerless people cut themselves off from God's prevailing power, and the frequent result is the familiar feeling of being overwhelmed, overrun, beaten down, pushed around, defeated. Surprising numbers of people are willing to settle for lives like that. Don't be one of them. Nobody has to live like that. Prayer is the key to unlocking God's prevailing power in your life.
Once Moses made the connection between prayer and God's power, he determined to spend the rest of the day praying for God's involvement in the battle. But his arms grew weary. He knew better than to drop them to his sides; he had done that and watched his troops get wiped out. So the two men who accompanied him up the hill found a stone he could sit on. Then each man crawled under an arm and helped Moses hold his arms up. What a pictureMoses being supported by caring people who wanted to help him keep the power flowing! Needless to say, Israel won the battle that day.
Are you weary of praying? Do you feel that your prayers are ineffective? Do you wonder if God is really listening? In this book I'd like to play the role of one of Moses' friends, helping you hold up your arms until the day is done and the victory is yours. I'd like to be used by God to inspire you to continue to pray no matter how discouraged you may feel right now.
I know that God answers prayer. He answers mine, and he will answer yours too. Furthermore, he wants to hear from you. Your adventure of prayer begins with his willingness to listen.
Excerpted from TOO BUSY NOT TO PRAY by Bill Hybels with La Vonne Neff. Copyright © 1998 by Bill Hybels. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Table of ContentsGod calls us into his presence
1. God's Presence, God's Power
2. God Is Willing
3. God Is AbleGod invites us to talk with him
4. Heart-Building Habits
5. Praying Like Jesus
6. A Pattern for Prayer
7. Mountain-Moving PrayerGod breaks down the barriers between us
8. The Hurt of Unanswered Prayer
9. Prayer Busters
10. Cooling Off on PrayerGod speaks to our hearts
11. Slowing Down to Pray
12. The Importance of Listening
13. How to Hear God's Leadings
14. What to Do with Leadings
15. Living in God's Presence
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
A Guide for Private or Group Prayer
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book outline how to apply effective pray time in my life. It's very inspirational!
This book is great. I know I should have a better prayer life in order to get intimate with God but do not know how. This book discussed about the different factors that lead to a prayerlessness. It also offers the different tools and techniques that would lead to a prayerful life. I also feel that it speaks to my heart when it quoted the examples about how people feel about their prayer life. I found this book very helpful.
I love this book. Its simple & easy to read. I learned some good habits & an easy form to pray. This opened up my prayer life. Highly recommend this book.
I lead a fast-paced life, and at times you just feel run-down. This book helped me get back on track in my prayer life and I really liked the author's style. He portrays God as He should be portrayed- as our loving, caring Father. The tips were practical, and the content was applicable.
I'm on my second time through the book. It's a great tool for growing closer to God through prayer. There are thought questions for each chapter and it is very easy to read. Bill outlines some great basic principles for prayer and growth. GREAT BOOK!
A must read for everyone who desires a intimate relationship with God. To God Be The Glory. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.