Richard Blackaby is the author of numerous books and a former pastor and seminary president. He also has spent his entire life in a ministry family; his father, Henry Blackaby, co-wrote Experiencing God and has a long-time ministry to pastors and leaders, which Richard now leads as president of Blackaby Ministries International.
On a recent visit to Springfield, Ill., he spoke with the Illinois Baptist about the discipline of prayer.
Illinois Baptist: During your teaching sessions here in Springfield, you talked about how easy it is to fall into shallow praying. Is prayer hard work?
Richard Blackaby: Yeah, I think it is. It must be, because so many Christians struggle with it. I mean, it’s not really hard to do, but it is a discipline because you’re talking to someone that’s invisible. You don’t hear His voice, and you’re busy, and you start thinking of all the other stuff you should be doing.
RB: It’s not hard, anybody can pray, yet rarely have I every talked to a Christian who said they felt like their prayer life was what it should be. Rarely have I talked to a pastor who felt that; I don’t know if I’ve ever talked to a pastor who said, “Yeah, I wouldn’t change a thing in my prayer life.” And I wouldn’t say that about mine.
But I think the problem in part with prayer is that it’s something we keep trying to teach, instead of model. I could teach you until I’m blue in the face about why you should pray. I could give you all kinds of acronyms and books to read. But at the end of the day, if I just every day met with you and just prayed, and just had a glorious time talking to God, you’d probably want to pray that way too eventually, whether I was there or not.
IB: In your own life, what has helped you go deeper in that discipline?
RB: My dad always talked about unhurried time with God, and he said you have to carve out enough time that it’s unhurried. That when you start to pray, you don’t even have to look at your watch to be worried that your next appointment is coming up. You know you’ve got enough time to just relax with God. So for [my dad] for years, that meant he got up at 4:00 in the morning.
IB: What else?
RB: The other thing that was kind of interesting for me – I kind of go in and out where I try this – I would write my prayers down. Not my prayer requests, like write Bill’s name down [and] pray he gets a job, but actually writing out in sentence form what I was asking God to do….It was amazing what that did, because when you pray, you can pray out loud, but a lot of times you’re just praying silently. Your mind is thinking these thoughts and you’re saying these things, but it just seemed to be more… I’d get my hands on it better when it was written out.
For more from Blackaby, go to ibonline.ibsa.org to read the February 11 issue of the Illinois Baptist.