HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
There are essentially two types of prayer rules that we have in the Church. It is important for us to understand these in order to best make prayer a part of our lives, or better put, to keep ourselves from using our spiritual powers of self-justification and personal laxity to excuse ourselves from praying regularly.
But before we discuss prayer, we should discuss the other spiritual weapon our Lord directed us to use in our struggle with the dark angels: the demons. In the Gospel reading appointed for a recent Sunday, we hear quite specifically about these weapons (depending on which Local Church you attend for worship, this Gospel may have been on a different Sunday).
I read this Gospel on July 31/August 13 – the tenth Sunday after Pentecost. The Gospel reading in question is
Matthew 17:14-23 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, 15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. 16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. 17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. 18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. 19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? 20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. 22 And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: 23 And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.
Here we see the Apostles unable to cast out a particularly difficult demon. The father of the child afflicted with this demon wrongly attributed his possession to the moon, calling him a lunatic. Here the Lord strongly rebukes him for his incorrect faith, attributing spiritual power to the creation, rather than the Creator. He heals the child, and the Apostles come to Him afterwards and ask why they could not cast out the demon. (Apparently, they had been having some success in this realm until they ran into this particular case).
Finding Strength in Obedience
The Lord explained to them that this kind goes out only by PRAYER and FASTING. In other words, the Lord instructs us here to use both prayer and fasting in our battle with the demons. Any soldier going into battle would be foolish to throw away half the weapons he had been provided by his commander, yet how often we sadly throw away fasting, considering it to be somehow anachronistic or otherwise not applicable to us today! How wrong and foolish this is!
Let us use ALL the weapons the Lord gives us in this real spiritual struggle—our daily war against the demons. If you do not know how to fast, talk to your minister. If he says you don’t have to fast, find another minister! In short, on Wednesdays, Fridays, and during the four extended fasting periods, we should abstain from meat and dairy products, and sometimes from fish, and sometimes from caffeinated drinks. Those who fast will quickly see the spiritual benefits this spiritual sword brings to us, including increased spiritual clarity (in seeing ourselves for who we really are) which leads to repentance.
Frankly speaking, this is also the only way, in our days, that most of us outside of the mystic life practice obedience. In this case, obedience to God in the fasting rules that are provided by this divine-human organism for our salvation. Do not neglect this important weapon that the Lord instructs us to use in our spiritual battle!
Protecting Ourselves with Prayer
Our other weapon then is prayer. There are certain prayer rules that we are not to shorten or skip, such as praying and confessing before the Lord’s supper. You will need to come to the table without spot and blemish to be a partaker of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus.
Praying in the morning and evening, however, have a much more flexible rule. You pray these times for it is your duty to call on the Name of the Lord. But if we are diligent to pray every day, we very quickly make it a must to kneel in the presence of the Lord, which is not a bad thing at all. In our day we must pray with zeal, but we ought to have an increased awareness of distraction that can overtake our purpose for prayer.
For this reason, it is perfectly permissible to reschedule your times of prayers (when we notice we are particularly distracted) by something else. Remember, the examples in the Holy Bible as a guide for us to follow and adhere to. It is meant to teach us to pray. We can apply what we have learned by diligently reading our Bibles daily and praying morning and evening.
Guidelines for Your Prayers
The first thing to do is to figure out how long you pray each morning and evening. It is probably somewhere between 10 and 30 minutes, but this will vary from person to person. So next time, time yourself. Let us say you pray for 15 minutes each morning and each evening. When you have gotten to the point that you are not really praying and this is a good time to switch and read a portion of Scripture which will help to steer your mind back to oneness with God. This will help you greatly to be attentive to your prayers.
Still, this article is supposed to be about practical prayer—not necessarily about better prayer (although we should always strive for quality first in our prayers. Quantity is not unimportant, but it is connecting to God your Father).
How can we make it easier for ourselves to pray: morning, evening, and during the day? You can set a reminder on your phone to remind you that it is prayer time. I want to encourage you to make use of every effort you can get to spend time in prayer and with your God.
First, so let’s take advantage of the moment to pray every morning and every evening! Second, you can find time to pray throughout the day. These prayers needn’t be too long, but if we touch base with God during the day this helps our prayer life greatly.
Our greatest temptation regarding prayer is to actually start. So let us decide today, right now, that we will make a diligent effort to pray each morning and each evening. Let us vow to take a portion of the Scripture daily and keep it piously through regular, quality prayer at home (alone if we must, but ideally together with our families). And let us not forget to ask the Lord to bless this effort! We must work together with God if we hope to accomplish anything pleasing to Him. May He indeed bless you and grant you—through your effort and His Grace—to love prayer and fasting for the spiritual gifts and weapons that they are, and to use them accordingly!