Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart. (Luke 18:1)
Pray or quit.
Pray or grow discouraged and drop by the wayside.
Pray or weaken and wither away.
If I were the devil, I would do anything within my power to stop God’s people from praying.
If I were the devil, I’d be patting myself on the back about now, since it would appear that very few are praying. Well, praying in any sort of meaningful, situation-altering way, anyway.
No one believed in prayer the way the Lord Jesus did.
Perhaps no subject so permeates the four gospels like prayer. Jesus exhibited it, taught it, reminded His disciples of it, and told stories of people who did it well.
Pray or else, disciple of Jesus.
1. Pray or else you will work in the flesh.
“Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8).
We have a choice every day of our lives, in every task we undertake: to work in the Spirit or in the flesh. To do it on our own, looking to ourselves for our resources and wisdom, or to turn to Him.
The process of turning to Him is called prayer.
2. Pray or else you will contradict Jesus.
“Without me, you can do nothing,” our Lord said in John 15:5.
We are as dependent on our Lord as the branch trying to bear fruit depends on the larger branch (or vine) from which all sustenance comes. To say otherwise, is to call Jesus Christ a liar.
3. Pray or else you are planning to fail.
To the disciples at the foot of the Mount of Transfiguration, our Lord explained why they had been unable to help the little boy who had been brought to him for help. “This kind comes out only by prayer” (Mark 9:29).
Why did our event fail? There may be many reasons, but if you did not lift the matter and yourself to the Lord in prayer, I suggest you put the blame there. “You did not ask,” is how James 4:3 puts it.
4. Pray or else you will grow discouraged, lose your way, and we’ll have to send out a search and rescue team for you.
The Lord who wants nothing so much as to bless us will not force His will upon us. In one of the most fascinating promises to be found in scripture, Jesus comes right up to the front door with Heaven’s blessings and knocks. He says, “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him….” (Revelation 3:20).
It’s up to us.
He will allow us to go our way, work in our strength, and to fail–if that’s what we choose.
If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword. For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken. (Isaiah 1:19-20.
5. Pray or else you will find your success hollow, your joy meaningless, your riches empty.
To the rich, myopic, gentleman farmer of Luke 12, God said, “You fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?”
The wasteful, rebellious son of Jesus’ parable in Luke 15 found how limited his wealth was, how fickle his friends were, and how fleeting his fun was. Only in the hogpen did he come to his senses and get up and come home to the waiting father.
6. Pray or else you abandon those depending on you.
“Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you,” said the Prophet Samuel to the nation Israel (I Samuel 12:23).
One night, walking my usual route through the neighborhood, praying and planning and thinking and going over sermons, God spoke. “Who do you think is going to pray for your children if you will not?” He said. I will not soon forget that intrusion of the Almighty into my reverie.
7. Pray or else you are on your own.
In prayer we are saying, “Lord, thy will be done.” In refusing to pray, we are demanding that our will be done. And that request, we might add, will be granted. The Lord goes nowhere He’s unwanted.
The old hymn goes, “The arm of flesh will fail you; you dare not trust your own.”
God lets us learn that lesson the hard way in the school of experience.
The flip-side to “Without me you can do nothing”–the sum of all the “or elses” above–is Paul’s eloquent testimony: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).