“O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” (Nehemiah 1:11a)
Nowadays, in a developed society, it is very easy to get water when we need it. We can just buy a bottle at the store, or all we have to do is turn on a faucet (provided, of course, that the water line is working) and out flows a stream of water. It doesn’t matter whether we are at home, in a factory, or in a store. If we want to wash our clothes, take a shower, or irrigate the farm, the water is there. Yet it was not always this easy. There was a time when water had to be brought to the place of need by hand. During the 1800s, rural U.S. homes relied on hand pumps to bring water to the surface. While it wasn’t extraordinarily difficult to operate, there was a bit of effort involved, and it could become quite tedious, especially when a lot of water was needed.
The typical hand pump of the day consisted of just a few components. First, there was the main housing where the water entered and was pushed out. Then there was the plunger, the shaft, and the handle that operated the plunger. Finally, there were the various valves, O-rings, nuts, bolts, and the connecting pipe for the water to enter the pump. The operation was pretty simple:
- The handle was firmly pushed down, raising the plunger inside the pump’s housing.
- Water was drawn up the pipe from the well (or similar water source) below, and flowed through a valve into the area inside the housing beneath the plunger.
- The handle was then lifted up and the plunger went down as the valve closed and the water was retained in the lower part of the housing.
- As the plunger continued to go down, a valve in the plunger itself opened and the water entered the upper part of the housing above the plunger.
- Finishing this procedure, the handle was pushed down again, the valve in the plunger closed, and the water in the upper part was forced out the pump’s spout.
If you wanted more water, you simply followed the previous steps all over again. If you used the pump frequently, it wouldn’t take much for the water to start flowing again, as the water level was high.
But if you didn’t use the pump very much, the water level would be low, and much effort would be needed for the water to flow freely.
Sometimes, especially if the pump was hardly used, the area inside the pump housing would be dry and the pump would need to be primed. This means that some water would have to be added to the inside of the pump, especially around the plunger’s O-ring (the rubber ring that fills the space between the plunger and the housing) so that some suction was created to pull the water below up to the pump.
This narrative gives us a good example of the value of constant prayer or communication with God in our lives. We need to be in frequent communication with God. A brief prayer over a meal or the occasional prayer once a week, or even once a month, is not nearly enough. The pump is running dry; the water level is getting low. We have got to be much more frequent in using that pump and keeping that water level high. The natural tendency of our flesh (our earthly ‘self’) is not to pray at all, unless our flesh is getting the glory or recognition through a lofty prideful prayer that God never hears or acknowledges. Due to this tendency, we must make an extra effort to ensure that we are spending time with God. That means time must be taken from another area in our daily activities and given over to Him in prayer.
The most common complaint is, that we can’t find enough time to really pray. We feel that maybe we could cut a little time off of an activity, or speed up in our traveling, to get an extra ten to twenty minutes. We may think that if we pray extra on our day off, that will cover the rest of the week. Try looking at it this way: if you apply those excuses for communicating with your closest friend, your spouse, your children, or your parents, you will most likely have a very poor relationship with them!
If every day is given to us from God our Heavenly Father, shouldn’t we be giving back a portion of it to Him in prayer? If we can cheerfully give Him a portion of what He has given us, whether it is income or goods, why aren’t we giving that same portion or more to Him in fellowship through prayer?
Our time seems very valuable when it comes to watching television or movies, browsing the web, texting, using social media, etc. Yet we are very quick to respond that time for God is nonexistent! We tend to shy away from prayer as if it is very difficult to do, or very hard to begin (or some similar reason). Remember from the pump example that when the water level is low, pumping becomes a real chore. You have got to spend more time in prayer to keep the water level high and the pumping easier. Oh, how much easier the pump is to use when it is well-oiled and used frequently!
I used to be among those who had many excuses for not praying. I never really enjoyed praying; it was just rote or ritual for me. Years and years went by without much effort given to communication with God. During Bible college, I took a class on prayer (required for graduation) and still struggled with making time and effort to pray. As part of the course, we were required to maintain a prayer journal. (I was equally not fond of writing my thoughts in a journal). You might have guessed that my journal was almost totally empty. Needless to say, my grade was barely passable, yet this or any other attempt to increase my time in prayer did not help. It wasn’t until over two decades later that I began to really understand the need and began to make an effort to take time away to spend it with Him.
While the desire not to pray still existed, I found that the less I prayed, the emptier I felt inside.
Over time, I discovered for myself that the pump really does flow easier when used more often, and how difficult the pump becomes to operate when used less and less.
If you want to be victorious in your walk with God, you must spend time talking with Him. If it takes great effort or is a real bore, then you are not praying and your relationship with God is suffering. Start simply and expand from there; let His Spirit formulate or compose the thoughts and desires of your heart. You are not training in an oratory school; you are expressing your heart to God.
If you find your mind wandering or journeying into some distant land while praying, rein it back in! If you are daydreaming in the middle of a conversation with a very close friend, how does that benefit them?
In your prayer time, don’t let yourself be clouded, or distracted with a focus on your ‘self.’ Prayer is to be the time that we align ourselves with God’s will and not our will, or the will of others. Don’t ask God to change others for your sake; ask Him to change you! Spend more in prayer and keep the pump moving freely!