If you have been a Christian long enough, you know about habits for growing in faith. Of all the habits, prayer may be the most critical. It gives life to all other habits because we seek the Holy Spirit primarily in prayer. One of my favorite Puritan writers, Richard Sibbes, says, “The Scriptures profit nothing, preaching profits nothing, the sacraments profit nothing; none of these will be ‘meat indeed’ unless the Spirit of Christ quickens them.” Habits like Bible reading become channels of living water only when accompanied by the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39).
Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones coming to life illustrates the connection between prayer and the Holy Spirit. God gives Ezekiel a vision of a valley full of dry bones. He tells the prophet to preach to the bones that he will make them alive again (Ezekiel 37:5-6). While preaching, Ezekiel witnesses a miracle, “tendons appeared on them, flesh grew, and skin covered them” (Ezekiel 37:8). However, even with new bodies, they were not alive because “there was no breath in them” (Ezekiel 37:8). Ezekiel’s preaching had to be accompanied by the breath of God for the bones to become alive. Therefore, God tells Ezekiel to, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man. Say to it: This is what the Lord God says: Breath, come from the four winds and breathe into these slain so that they may live!” (Ezekiel 37:9). Dry bones come alive only when Ezekiel speaks to the breath.
Ezekiel’s preaching receives power when accompanied by the Spirit of God, which the breath represents. Only the Holy Spirit makes preaching, Bible study, fellowship, evangelism, and other spiritual disciplines effective. Sibbes, therefore, counsels us to “sanctify all we take in hand by prayer!” Seek the Spirit by saturating everything in prayer.
We all know the importance of prayer. At the same time, we all struggle to pray more than we struggle with other habits of the Christian life. We need help. Thankfully God provides help for wounded prayer warriors.
In his book When I Don’t Desire to Pray, John Onwuchekwa gives two crucial ingredients for prayer: God’s Word and God’s people. God reveals himself and communes with us by his word. His word teaches us about him and draws us near to him and, therefore, “one primary way to fuel prayer is by immersing ourselves in the Bible.” Being alone with our Bible is one ingredient but not the complete meal. We cannot have a vibrant prayer life in isolation. God means for us to converse with him and with our spiritual family (Eph 2:12-22). Onwuchekwa wisely says, “God intended for us to know him and to fulfill our creation work not just through his word but through our relationship with his other children. We will know God more fully as we see him work in the lives of other sons and daughters of God.” Other Christians are crucial to our prayer lives. We are made to pursue God together, and so we pray together. God’s word and God’s people are like matches lighting the fire of prayer.
As we immerse ourselves in God’s word and God’s people, we can make progress towards praying without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17). There is no one-size-fits-all habit of prayer. The Bible shows a variety of contexts (silent, private, and public) and forms (thanksgiving, confession, lament, etc.) for prayer. We have different rhythms for different seasons, but the constant is that we give ourselves to prayer. May God give you the wisdom to know the right habit of prayer for you in this season.