Prayer is Hard Work

Good morning. It is Monday, September 7, 2015. Labor Day holiday in the U.S.

Today’s word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is ampersand. This noun is a word designating the symbol “&.” The actual definition is, “a character & that is used for the word and.” It looks like they didn’t finish the sentence. 😀

Today is Buy A Book Day. Now here is a case of getting holidays backwards! Yesterday was Read A Book Day, but today is Buy A Book Day. Shouldn’t we buy the book first? Unless, of course, you check it out at the library . . . And, if you’re like me, and you are, sometimes, you already have a veritable plethora of books, so it is not necessary to buy another one in order to read one.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time going on about yesterday’s accomplishments, as I don’t feel it proper to boast in things we’ve done. We will just leave it at saying that yesterday felt like a very good day. We were very busy for most of the day, but the “busyness” was for good purposes, and we feel like we did some good things. Hopefully, we did, at least.

Today, we have nothing planned. Christi is cooking a roast in the crock-pot, and she has already put the algaecide in the pool to try to clear up our green water. We took a bottle of water to Leslie’s Pool Supply yesterday, and they told us that, plus some shock, was what we needed to fix this problem. So, we shall see if this works. We also just discussed the possibility of going bowling today. So we might do that.

I think my “go-to” app for history is missing a few things today. So I’m heading to’s This Day In History page.

It was on this date in 1813 that the U.S. nicknamed Uncle Sam. In 1896, an electric car, built by the Riker Electric Motor Company, won the first auto race in the U.S. Second place was also an electric car. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed a treaty that would give control of the Panama Canal back to Panama in the year 2000. In 1953, Maureen Connolly won the U.S. Open, becoming the first woman to win the Grand Slam of tennis. And on this date in 1785, William Fox headed up a meeting, at Paul’s Head Tavern in London, that would result in the formation of the first Sunday School Society for Britain. Its purposes were as follows: “to prevent vice; to encourage industry and virtue; to dispel darkness and ignorance; to diffuse the light of knowledge; to bring men cheerfully to submit to their stations; to obey the laws of God and their country; to make that useful part of the community, the country poor, happy; to lead them in the pleasant paths of religion here, and to endeavor to prepare them for a glorious eternity.”

Today’s birthdays include Queen Elizabeth I of England, Grandma Moses (American painter), David Packard (American businessman, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard), Arthur Ferrante (American pianist, Ferrante and Teicher), Peter Lawford (American actor), Buddy Holly (American musician), Gloria Gaynor (American singer), Julie Kavner (American actress, voice of Marge Simpson), Chrissie Hynde (American musician, The Pretenders), Susan Blakely (American actress), Corbin Bernsen (American actor), and Evan Rachel Wood (American actress).

Arthur Ferrante was a concert pianist who teamed up with Lou Teicher as part of a magnificent piano duo. Ferrante was born on this date in 1921 and passed away in 2009, at the age of 88. Here are Ferrante and Teicher performing their hit, “Exodus.”

John Greenleaf Whittier, J.P. Morgan, Jr., Warren Zevon, Bud Fisher, Kirsten Flagstad, Keith Moon, and Joe Cronin are among notable deaths on this date.


Today’s Psalm, from Heart Aflame, is Psalm 102:16-24.

For the LORD builds up Zion; he appears in his glory;
he regards the prayer of the destitute and does not despise their prayer.
Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD:
that he looked down from his holy height; from heaven the LORD looked at the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die,
that they may declare in Zion the name of the LORD, and in Jerusalem his praise,
when peoples gather together, and kingdoms, to worship the LORD.
He has broken my strength in midcourse; he has shortened my days.
“O my God,” I say, “take me not away in the midst of my days— you whose years endure throughout all generations!”

Calvin hits on one of the great mysteries of prayer in his commentary on this passage. “It is worthy of notice, that the deliverance of the chosen tribes is ascribed to the prayers of the faithful. God’s mercy was indeed the sole cause which led him to deliver his Church, according as he had graciously promised this blessing to her; but to stir up true believers to greater earnestness in prayer, he promises that what he has purposed to do of his own good pleasure, he will grant in answer to their requests. Nor is there any inconsistency between these two truths, that God preserves the Church in the exercise of his free mercy, and that he preserves her in answer to the prayers of his people; for as their prayers are connected with the free promises, the effect of the former depends entirely upon upon the latter.” (p 141)

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

I’m moving on to chapter nine in the book, titled “The Touchstones of Prayer.” The purpose of the current section is moving “from theory toward practice by listening to the main insights on prayer given to us by some of the great teachers in the history of the church.” Of course, these principles intersect each other, as Calvin wrote from a more theological perspective, Luther from a more practical point of view, while Augustine, not surprisingly, focused more on “the motives of the heart.” In this chapter, Timothy Keller will attempt to “distill what we have learned from our master teachers,” calling the results “touchstones.” He defines a touchstone as “a small rock containing silica that was rubbed against a piece of gold or silver to test its degree of purity or genuineness.” It is important to note that this is “not a set of rules that merit or trigger God’s response in some magical or mechanical way.” There are too many Christians who do not understand that our Father cannot be manipulated in this way.

The first group of touchstones is headed “What Prayer Is.” The first touchstone is “Work–Prayer Is a Duty and a Discipline.” Keller begins by saying, “Prayer should be done regularly, persistently, resolutely, and tenaciously at least daily, whether we feel like it or not.” Our prayers should go on, even if we don’t feel as if we are getting anything out of it.

Consider two roommates, one of which never speaks to the other. When questioned, the reason is given that one just doesn’t get much out of talking to the other. Regardless, it is simply rude not to speak to someone. “Of course rudeness is far too weak a word to use for a failure to directly address your Maker, Sustainer, and Redeemer, to whom you owe your every breath.”

We must be persevering in prayer. It is striving, which means that we must stick with it, “through the ups and downs of feelings.” Do not fail to pray because you don’t feel like you are “in the spirit.” Rather, pray until you do feel it. Consider, also, those who spend hours gazing at great works of art, constantly finding new things to appreciate in them. “How much more should we give this kind of patient attention to prayer?” Is there a painting that is even minutely as great as our God?

“Prayer is always hard work, and often an agony.” There are times when we must wrestle in prayer. We all know, I’m sure, those instances when it is time for our prayer session, and everything around us seems to conspire to prevent it. Sometimes we must wrestle in order to concentrate. “No Christian outgrows the need to struggle and persevere in prayer.”

Father, keep me involved in this hard work of prayer. Yes, I have experienced mornings where it was almost impossible to concentrate or focus enough to succeed in prayer. Sometimes, I have to abandon my list of needs and simply focus on you and a verse that spoke to me that morning. Other times, I simply fail. I pray for more consistency in this work of prayer. Please continue to teach me about it, theologically, practically, and existentially.

I pray for the day ahead of us. May we have a fun day of relaxation and play, if we choose to do so. Give us good rest for the remainder of the week ahead, and prepare us to display your kingdom to those around us as we work.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Prayer is hard work. We must struggle and strive through it, even when we do not feel like it.

I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf.
Romans 15:30

Grace and peace, friends.


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