23. The Whole Life Must Pray
Prayer at its best is the expression of the total life. Certainly there have been and will continue to be instances when an isolated prayer may be answered even when the one uttering it may not have been living an exemplary Christian life. But we assume that most of those who read this page are not satisfied to get a prayer through occasionally; they want to know a more satisfying prayer life, one that elevates and purifies every act of body and mind and integrates the entire personality into a single spiritual unit. Such prayer can only be the result of a life lived in the Spirit.
All things else being equal, our prayers are only as powerful as our lives. In the long pull we pray only as well as we live. Some prayers are like a fire escape, used only in times of critical emergency - never very enjoyable, but used as a way of terrified escape from disaster. They do not represent the regular life of the one who offers them; rather they are the unusual and uncommon acts of the spiritual amateur.
William Law somewhere pleads for Christians to live lives that accord with their prayers, and one of our well-known hymns asks that God help us to live more nearly as we pray. Most of us in moments of stress have wished that we had lived so that prayer would not be so unnatural to us and have regretted that we had not cultivated prayer to the point where it would be as easy and as natural as breathing.
We do not want to leave the impression that prayer in times of sudden crisis is not a good and a right thing. It most certainly is and God is said to be a "very present help in trouble;" but no instructed Christian wants to live his whole life on an emergency level. As we go on into God we shall see the excellency of the life of constant communion where all thoughts and acts are prayers, and the entire life becomes one holy sacrifice of praise and worship.
To pray effectively it is required of us that there be no unblessed areas in our lives, no parts of the mind or soul that are not inhabited by the Spirit no impure desires allowed to live within us, no disparity between our prayers and our conduct.
All this may appear to be placing the standard too high to be reached by men and women under the sun. But it is not so. If Christ is the kind of Savior He claims to be He should be able to save His people from the bondage of sin. This is not to support the man-made doctrine of "sinless perfection;" it is rather to declare the God-inspired doctrine that it is possible to "walk in the Spirit" and so "not fulfill the lust of the flesh." It is to say that God has made provision in the cross of Christ for His children to be delivered from the galling yoke of sin: "Likewise reckon you also yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Undoubtedly the redemption in Christ Jesus has sufficient moral power to enable us to live in a state of purity and love where our whole life will be a prayer. Individual acts of prayer that spring out of that kind of total living will have about them a wondrous power not known to the careless or the worldly Christian.
From The Root of the Righteous by A. W. Tozer. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012.
Insights of the past for the present
Root of the Righteous - A.W. Tozer
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your insights be worthy.