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Cultivate a Habit of Prayer
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Hidden in Plain SightHidden in Plain Sight

(Thomas Nelson)

Ever feel stuck? That no matter how much you wish otherwise, how hard you try and pray and regret and resolve, you can't break certain habits? Old wounds keep reopening. Old fears keep resurfacing.

Don't you want more than that? And doesn't God want more for you? Widely acclaimed author Mark Buchanan shares with readers a treasure from scripture that the vast majority of us overlook, a treasure that has been hidden in plain sight, that can finally move us beyond our old life and into a brand new life.

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Cultivate a Habit of Prayer

By Mark Buchanan

CBN.comThe end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. (1 Pet. 4:7)

This world is coming to a close. One day—soon, in God’s tabulation of things, though a day is like a thousand years to him and a thousand years like a day—the heavens will shrivel, the earth will scatter, fire will engulf it all, and the world as we know it will be over.

It’s nearer than you think. It’s nearer than it was yesterday. It’s nearer than all our daily rounds and domestic duties distract us from believing.

But it could happen today.

Peter’s two letters are largely an attempt to stoke our awareness of what he calls, evoking ancient prophetic imagery, the Day of the Lord. He wants to heighten our anticipation of that day. Peter concludes his second letter with a lengthy, detailed, and vigorous forecasting of it. It will be cataclysmic: blazing fire so hot it melts and consumes the elements themselves, sweeps the heavens empty, scours the earth bare.

And yet, terrible as it is, we’re to “look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” For out of the wholesale destruction a new heaven and a new earth emerge (see II Pet. 3:10–13).

But first we get ready. We do that by clear-mindedness and self-control. And we cultivate such qualities, in this case, for a specific end: so that we can pray.

Which seems, first blush, another anti-climax. The end of all things is near. Every day, it looms closer: a catastrophic end with a glorious outcome. We prepare ourselves, as for any great battle, with clearness of mind, stoutness of heart, steeliness of nerve. We get a grip on ourselves. We stare the thing in the face, undaunted, unflinching. We cheer its coming, and do what we can to hasten its arrival.

And all that for this: to pray.

Not fight. Not preach. Not counsel. Not organize. Not even evangelize.

Just pray.

Well, I know myself. The one thing I’m least inclined to do when all hell breaks loose is to head for the prayer closet. I have other things, many other things, I’m tempted to do first, and most, and instead. In the face of storm, I don’t want to storm heaven. I just want to storm about. In the face of impending doom I get so worried and distracted I could make Martha seem like a mystic poet, a contemplative drawn to caves and catacombs. I become my own little tornado of busyness and drivenness. I’m on my toes, swinging wildly, and the last thing I want to be is on my knees.

But what’s needed is to pray. And to pray well under such circumstances— when the sky falls, when mountains collapse, when nature’s red in tooth and claw—takes exceptional clearness of mind. And enormous self-control.

You have to slow. You have to breathe. You have to stop walking by sight and start walking by faith. You have to willfully set aside, for the moment, the danger right before your eyes in order to bring into focus, vivid and rich, things unseen. You start where all true prayer starts: “Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name . . .” You practice the presence of God, and invoke the kingdom of God, before you worry about where to get daily bread, how to dodge temptation, how to forgive wrongdoers, about who will rescue you from evil.

None of this comes naturally. Our instinct is fight or flight. Our impulse is to panic, flail about, sulk or bolt or holler. The last thing we’re inclined to do in the face of the end of all things is pray. For that, we need a good firm grip on ourselves.

Of course, this won’t happen unless we start now, well before that “great and dreadful day of the LORD comes” (Mal. 4:5). Start now, when maybe the most trouble you face in a day is burned toast, a flat tire, a flu-bug, a few more bills than checks. If in this relative moment of calm, when the bulk of your troubles are domestic (not cosmic), trifles (not tragedies), you cultivate the clear-mindedness and self-control to pray, it will serve you well in the day you need it most. Learn to pray before you react. Before you phone, in a flap, your child’s teacher over some alleged mistreatment she received in the classroom, pray. Before you fly off the handle over another computer glitch, pray. Before you lose heart because of another unexpected car expense, pray. While the most and the worst you have to deal with is a downturn in the economy, a downsizing at the office, a downwind from a poultry farm, pray.

The habit of prayer will not magically arrive for you amidst the flaming debris of the apocalypse. You’ll have to get it well in hand now, and work it into your daily rounds as patiently as petite point stitches. Then, when that day comes that you need it most, there it is.

Mark Buchanan lives on Vancouver Island, Canada, with his wife, Cheryl, and their three children, Adam, Sarah, and Nicola. This excerpt was taken from Mark’s latest book Hidden in Plain Sight with permission from Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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