In the dark streams of Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, you will find fishes that are still alive but have lost their sight. These fishes have lived for many centuries in the darkened waters of the cave, as a result their optic nerves have become atrophied.
One new word to learn: atrophy. This is the wasting away of muscles through disuse or neglect. Atrophy (degeneration of cells) is a common condition among living t
hings. So where am I going with this? It is possible for mankind to suffer from spiritual atrophy. Charles Darwin admitted that he lost his love for poetry and music because he failed to develop them. Likewise, we can lose our vital prayer power through disuse. We have got to keep praying at all times, in order to avoid spiritual atrophy. We are even reminded in 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18: pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
The next major bible prayer was by Solomon as he dedicated the temple, and his main point was about staying “prayed up”. I understand being “prayed up” as being spiritually prepared and having a continual prayer pattern. This is a pretty long prayer (1 Kings 8:22-53) , I’ve taken out some verses but the most important sections are in the bold print.
Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the whole assembly of Israel, spread out his hands toward heaven 23 and said:“Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way. 24 You have kept your promise to your servant David my father; with your mouth you have promised and with your hand you have fulfilled it—as it is today.
27 “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven,cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! 28 Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day.29 May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. 30 Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive. …
33 “When your people Israel have been defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against you, and when they turn back to you and give praise to your name, praying and making supplication to you in this temple, 34 then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them back to the land you gave to their ancestors.
35 “When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and when they pray toward this place and give praise to your name and turn from their sin because you have afflicted them,36 then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them the right way to live, and send rain on the land you gave your people for an inheritance.
37 “When famine or plague comes to the land, or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers, or when an enemy besieges them in any of their cities, whatever disaster or disease may come, 38 and when a prayer or plea is made by anyone among your people Israel—being aware of the afflictions of their own hearts, and spreading out their hands toward this temple— 39 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act; deal with everyone according to all they do, since you know their hearts (for you alone know every human heart), 40 so that they will fear you all the time they live in the land you gave our ancestors.
41 “As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name— 42 for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple, 43 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name.
44 “When your people go to war against their enemies, wherever you send them, and when they pray to the Lord toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name, 45 then hear from heaven their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause.
46 “When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to their enemies, who take them captive to their own lands, far away or near; 47 and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly’; 48 and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and pray to you toward the land you gave their ancestors, toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name; 49 then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause.50 And forgive your people, who have sinned against you; forgive all the offenses they have committed against you, and cause their captors to show them mercy; 51 for they are your people and your inheritance, whom you brought out of Egypt, out of that iron-smelting furnace.
52 “May your eyes be open to your servant’s plea and to the plea of your people Israel, and may you listen to them whenever they cry out to you.53 For you singled them out from all the nations of the world to be your own inheritance, just as you declared through your servant Moses when you, Sovereign Lord, brought our ancestors out of Egypt.”
To summarize this account, Solomon stood before the congregation and pleaded with God to always hear the people whenever and wherever they pray. This prayer benefited God’s people more than it would have benefited God. Of course Solomon knew that God will hear His people, but he wanted to remind Israel that they should pray in bad times as they do in good times. Jesus even said in Luke 18:1: men always ought to pray and not lose heart.
To persist in prayer until the answer comes does not necessarily mean endless repetition or painfully long prayer sessions, which seem very daunting. Always praying means keeping our requests constantly before God as we live for him day after day, always believing that he will answer. Thus, when we live by faith we should not give up. God may delay answering, but his “delays” always have good reasons. In fact they aren’t even delays because God is never late, he is always on time. As we persist in prayer we grow in character, faith and hope.
In order to prevent spiritual atrophy, we must maintain a strong prayer life. There are times when I forget to pray and could go without praying for a long while, now I realize that such a lifestyle is steering me towards spiritual atrophy. Spiritual atrophy ultimately leads to us losing the power in our prayers, thus it is important for us to set aside a daily time to commune with God. Prayer practice keeps our muscles toned up for any crisis.