The Copybook | On Prayer

From the book Practical Religion, by J.C. Ryle, 1878:

“Prayer is the most important subject in practical religion. All other subjects are second to it. Reading the Bible, keeping the Sabbath, hearing sermons, attending public worship, going to the LORD’s table – all these are very weighty matters. But none of them are so important as private prayer….[T]here is no duty in religion so neglected as private prayer….I have come to the conclusion that the great majority of professing Christians do not pray at all….It is one of those private transactions between God and our souls which no eye sees, and therefore one which there is every temptation to pass over and leave undone.”

“Prayer is the surest remedy against the devil and besetting sins. That sin will never stand firm which is heartily prayed against: that devil will never long keep dominion over us which we beseech the LORD to cast forth. But, then, we must spread out all our case before our Heavenly Physician, if He is to give us daily relief: we must drag our indwelling devils to the feet of Christ, and cry to Him to send them back to the pit.”

“There is a friend ever waiting to help us, if we will only unbosom to Him our sorrow – a friend who pitied the poor, and sick, and sorrowful, when He was upon earth – a friend who knows the heart of a man, for He lived thirty-three years as a man amongst us – a friend who can weep with the weepers, for He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief – a friend who is able to help us, for there never was earthly pain He could not cure. That friend is Jesus Christ. The way to be happy is to be always opening our hearts to Him.”

“Once having begun the habit [of prayer], never give it up. Your heart will sometimes say, ‘We have had family prayers; what mighty harm if we leave private prayer undone?’ Your body will sometimes say, ‘You are unwell, or sleepy, or weary; you need not pray.’ Your mind will sometimes say, ‘You have important business to attend to today; cut short your prayers.’ Look on all suggestions as coming direct from the devil.”

“Faith is to prayer what the feather is to the arrow: without it prayer will not hit the mark.”

“The wheels of all machinery for extending the Gospel are oiled by prayer.”

“Oh, let us keep an eye continually upon our private devotions! Here is the pith, and marrow, and backbone of our practical Christianity. Sermons, and books, and tracts, and committee meetings, and the company of good men, are all good in their way; but they will never make up for the neglect of private prayer. Mark well the places, and society, and companions, that unhinge your hearts for communion with God, and make your prayers drive heavily. Then be on your guard. Observe narrowly what friends and what employments leave your soul in the most spiritual frame, and most ready to speak with God. To these cleave and stick fast….I offer these points for private consideration. I do it in all humility. I know no one who needs to be reminded of them more than I do myself….I want the times we live in to be praying times. i want the Christians of our day to be praying Christians. I want the Church of our age to be a praying Church.”

We are reading Practical Religion for our church book club, and so far it has been a really good read, albeit somewhat challenging. This chapter in particular had me wanting to put Band-Aids on my hurt pride, as I realized how guilty I am of neglecting my own prayer life! Prayer should be our first line of defense, our surest prevention, and our chief source of comfort – I have free access to the God and Creator of the Universe through prayer. Why in the world would I not exercise that privilege as often as I can?

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