The largest radio receiver on earth is in New Mexico. Pilots call it “the mushroom patch.” Its real name is the Very Large Array. The “VLA” is a series of huge satellite disks on thirty-eight miles of railways. Together the dishes mimic a single telescope the size of Washington, D.C. Astronomers come from all over the world to analyze the optical images of the heavens composed by the VLA from the radio signals it receives from space. Why is such a giant apparatus needed? Because the radio waves, often emitted from sources millions of light years away, are very faint. The total energy of all radio waves ever recorded barely equals the force of a single snowflake hitting the ground.1
What great lengths people will go to searching for a faint message from space when God has spoken so clearly through His Son and His Word! Straining through the eyes of telescopes and the electronic ears of the VLA, they search the infinite darkness of the universe for a word. And all the while, “We have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).
But God not only has spoken clearly and powerfully to us through Christ and the Scriptures, He also has a Very Large Ear continuously open to us. He will hear every prayer of His children, even when our prayers are weaker than a snowflake. That’s why, of all the Spiritual Disciplines, prayer is second only to the intake of God’s Word in importance.
The dynamic relationship of prayer to the intake of God’s Word, and their prominence over all other Spiritual Disciplines, is illustrated from Christian history by Carl Lundquist:
The New Testament church built two other disciplines upon prayer and Bible study, the Lord’s Supper and small cell groups. John Wesley emphasized five works of piety by adding fasting. The medieval mystics wrote about nine disciplines clustered around three experiences: purgation of sin, enlightenment of the spirit and union with God. Later the Keswick Convention approach to practical holiness revolved around five different religious exercises. Today Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline, lists twelve disciplines—all of them relevant to the contemporary Christian. But whatever varying religious exercises we may practice, without the two basic ones of Emmaus—prayer and Bible reading—the others are empty and powerless.2
If Lundquist is right, as I believe he is, then one of the main reasons for a lack of Godliness is prayerlessness.
During the 1980s, more than seventeen thousand members of a major evangelical denomination were surveyed about their prayer habits while attending seminars on prayer for spiritual awakening. Because they attended this kind of seminar, we can assume these people are above average in their interest in prayer. And yet, the surveys revealed that they pray an average of less than five minutes each day. There were two thousand pastors and wives at these same seminars. By their own admission, they pray less than seven minutes a day. It’s very easy to make people feel guilty about failure in prayer, and that’s not the intent of this chapter. But we must come to grips with the fact that to be like Jesus we must pray.
Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 65–66.
We have just released a new Bible study the first half of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life that covers many of the chapters in Donald Whitney’s book.
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.