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Prayer: Not a Dreamy Reverie

J. Oswald Sanders, Cultivation of Christian Character, (Moody Press, Chicago; 1965), pp. 110-111

Both our Lord and Paul made it clear that prayer is no mere pleasant, dreamy reverie. "All vital praying makes a drain on a man's vitality," wrote J. H. Jowett. "True intercession is a sacrifice, a bleeding sacrifice." Jesus performed many mighty works without outward sign of strain, but of His praying it is recorded that "he…offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears" (Heb. 5:7).

"Epaphras is always wrestling for you in his prayers," wrote Paul to the Colossian Christians (4:12). How pale a reflection of Epaphras' intercessions are our languid prayers. The word "wrestling" is that from which our word "agony" is derived. It is used of a man toiling at his work until utterly weary (Col. 1:29), or competing in the arena for the coveted laurel wreath (I Cor. 9:25). It describes the soldier battling for his life (I Tim. 6:12), or a man struggling to deliver his friend from danger (John 18:36). It pictures the agony of earnestness of a man to save his own soul (Luke 13:24). But its supreme significance appears in the tragedy of Gethsemane. "Being in an agony he prayed more earnestly" (Luke 22:44), an agony induced by His identification with and grief over the sins of a lost world. Prayer is evidently a strenuous spiritual exercise which demands the utmost mental discipline and concentration. Was it because of this fact that our Lord sometimes linked prayer with fasting?

True intercession is costly. Jesus first gave Himself and then made intercession for His murderers. He could do no more for them. Are we asking of God something we ourselves could supply? Can it be true intercession until we are empty-handed? True intercession demands the sacrifice and dedication of all; it cannot be costless and crossless.