I remember hearing the story of the famous evangelist D.L. Moody at a revival. The man who was closing the service in prayer was going on and on, showing off his supplication skills in front of the large crowd. After several minutes of waxing eloquent D.L. Moody approached the pulpit where the wordy-would-be prayer warrior was flexing his prayerful prowess. Putting his arm around the unsuspecting man D.L. Moody spoke loudly over him, “While our dear brother finishes his prayer, let’s close in a hymn!” With that Moody led the crowd in a rousing closing chorus.
You see D.L. Moody knew that prayers that worked most effectively weren’t necessarily the long ones. And he knew that the purpose of prayer was not to show off one’s eloquence to the audience but to pour out our hearts to our Daddy.
Remember the showdown at Mt. Carmel Corral between the 450 prophets of Baal and the lone prophet/ranger Elijah? This was a contest between Baal and Yahweh to see which God would answer by fire first. Each would make a sacrifice and pray for that divine bolt of fire to turn their killed bull into barbequed beef.
Being the lone ranger/prophet/gentlemen that he was, Elijah let the prophets of Baal go first. Lighting up the sacrifice should have been an easy one for Baal. He supposedly lived on Mt. Carmel which means that he had home field advantage. He was the god of fertility, rode clouds regularly and chucked lightning bolts for fun.
The P.O.B. prayed for like six hours with skin slashing intensity. That’s the equivialent of 2,700 man hours of prayer! The result of their prayers? Flies, not fire on their sacrificed bull.
So after Elijah gets tired of taunting and waiting (six hours is a long prayer service, even for a prophet of God) he rebuilds the altar, makes a sacfiice, drenches it three times with water (just to rub it in) and then prays this simple prayer,
“O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again” 1 Kings 18:36-37.
Crack! Boom! Bang!
The fire falls from heaven and burns up the sacrifice, wood, water and altar!
2,700 man hours of labor intensive, vocal straining prayer to the wrong God can’t stand up to a less-than-sixty-seconds prayer given in the right way to the right God. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “Some brethren pray by the yard, but true prayer is measured by weight-not length. A single groan before God may have more fullness of prayer in it than a fine oration of great length.”
The prayers of the P.O.B. were focused on the wrong God whereas Elijah’s prayer were focused on the right God, connected with the right sacrifice and done for the right reasons (“so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God….”)
In the same way when we recalibrate our minds on the true and living God, offer our prayers in faith based on the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ and are praying with the right motives we can be sure that, like Elijah, our prayers will be answered…no matter how long or short our prayers happen to be!
So pray short prayers throughout the day. Pray while you are driving (but keep your eyes open please). Pray at your cubicle. Pray in your yard. Pray in the midst of boring conversations. Pray short, hard and for the right reasons. I guarantee you that, as you get into this habit, your extended times of prayer will have more punch too!