Planned or Spontaneous Prayer?

Wrong Question. Why not both?

Stacked Stone archWhy not strive for balance between extremes?

I am currently taking our church leaders (we call them elders) through a study on the biblical concept of an elder’s roles and duties. This morning we met at 6:15 for prayer and study, working through the last pages of lesson 3 in the Biblical Eldership Mentor’s Guide by Alexander Strauch and Richard Swartley.

It is ALWAYS great to meet with these godly men who take seriously and are learning to take even more seriously the care and protection of God’s flock, our little portion of His kingdom colony on earth. This morning two quotes arrested my attention. One, by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and the second by John Piper. Piper deals with planning to pray for the saints and Lloyd-Jones with spontaneous prayer for the saints.

Dr. John Piper

“Unless I’m badly mistaken, one of the main reasons so many of God’s children don’t have a significant prayer life is not so much that we don’t want to, but that we don’t plan to. If you want to take a four-week vacation, you don’t just get up one summer morning and say, “Hey, let’s go today!” You won’t have anything ready. You won’t know where to go. Nothing has been planned. But that is how many of us treat prayer. We get up day after day and realize that significant times of prayer should be a part of our life, but nothing’s ever ready. We don’t know where to go. Nothing has been planned. No time. No place. No procedure. And we all know that the opposite of planning is not a wonderful flow of deep, spontaneous experiences in prayer. The opposite of planning is the rut. If you don’t plan a vacation you will probably stay home and watch TV. The natural, unplanned flow of spiritual life sinks to the lowest ebb of vitality. There is a race to run and a fight to be fought. If you want renewal in your life of prayer you must plan to see it.”

(DESIRING GOD, p. 150-151 of the 1986 edition.)

That is some really good advice even if it tastes like castor-oil to our flesh. Maybe that is part of why we are told to “deny ourselves” as we follow Him (Matthew 16:24). 

At the same time, planning to pray and being disciplined in prayer doesn’t negate, nor should it undermine spontaneous prayer.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“Always respond to the impulse to pray. The impulse to pray may come when you are reading or when you are battling with a text. I would make an absolute law of this—always obey such an impulse. Where does it come from? It is the work of the Holy Spirit; it is a part of the meaning of “work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12, 13, [KJV]). This often leads to some of the most remarkable experiences in the life of the minister [or any other believer]. So never resist, never postpone it, never push it aside because you are busy. Give yourself to it, yield to it.”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in THE PREACHER AND PREACHING, p. 395

Brothers, plan to pray and pray without ceasing for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus (cf. 1 Thess. 5:17-18)

One thought on “Planned or Spontaneous Prayer?

  1. In my blog, which studies prayers in the Bible as well as biblical teaching about prayer, I have noted the presence of impromptu, unwritten prayer (Nicodemus after questioned by the king) and written prayers (most notably many of the Psalms). Both/and is a great answer.

    Liked by 1 person

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