The Discipline of Prayer
One of my favorite books on spiritual disciplines is Disciplines of a Godly Man by Kent Hughes. In my opinion, one of the greatest chapters in his book is “The Discipline of Prayer.” It is a great guide for men to grow from being absolutely prayerless to slowly becoming one who prays without ceasing. Hughes gives this illustration:
Dr. J. Sidlow Baxter once shared a page from his own pastoral diary with a group of pastors who had inquired about the discipline of prayer. He began by telling how in 1928 he entered the ministry determined he would be the “most Methodist-Baptist” of pastors, a real man of prayer. However, it was not long before his increasing pastoral responsibilities and administrative duties and the subtle subterfuges of pastoral life began to crowd prayer out. Moreover, he began to get to used to it, making excuses for himself.
Then one morning it all came to a head as he stood over his work-strewn desk and looked at his watch. The voice of the Spirit was calling him to pray. At the time another velvety little voice was telling to be practical and get his letters answered, and that ought to face up to the fact that he was not one of the “spiritual sort” – only a few people could be like that. “That last remark,” says Baxter, “hurt like a dagger blade. I could not bear to think it was true.”
This is certainly not only true for pastors, but for all. Hughes says this about prayer and its affect in his chapter The Discipline of Devotion:
Prayer is like a time exposure to God. Our souls function like photographic plates, and Christ’s shining image is the light. The more we expose our lives to the white-hot sun of His righteous life (for, say, five, ten, fifteen, thirty minutes, or an a hour a day), the more his image will be burned into our character – His love, His compassion, His truth, His integrity, His humility.
If you have not read this book, I encourage you to. It is a great remedy for casual spiritism that riddles the church – forcing you to consider the benefits of a disciplined Christian life.