“Our primary focus in life must be on how we talk to God in prayer!”
My father wrote that bombshell statement in a 1998 article called “Measuring the Temple,” continuing: “That is our number one priority. That is how we grow in God’s royal family.”
The Bible contains several examples of people, including teenagers, who made their relationship with God their primary focus in life. One particular teen, because of his devotion to serving God, was even given a part in establishing the throne of David—and no, I am not talking about David himself. I am talking about the man who anointed David: Samuel.
During the period of the judges, every man in Israel did that which was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6; 21:25). Society was much like the one you live in today, but God had a plan to turn it around through one person—one remarkable teenager! Notice 1 Samuel 3:1: “And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.” Samuel was just a child—perhaps about 13 years old—but that didn’t stop him from “ministering to the Eternal,” or doing God’s Work.
You can read about how God stopped working with the elderly judge Eli and started working with Samuel in 1 Samuel 3:2-9. Samuel kept hearing someone call his name, but it wasn’t Eli. Finally, he realized who it was. “And the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth” (verse 10). Samuel was very responsive to his calling. “Speak, for your servant hears” is the attitude every teenager needs in his or her fellowship with God.
“And the Lord said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, that at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle” (verse 11). Samuel was the only one in all of Israel qualified to deliver the new truth that God was revealing! Eli should have received this message, but he wasn’t close to God. In fact, God used Samuel to correct Eli (verses 16-18). Notice, Samuel “told him [Eli] every whit” (verse 18). That must have taken a lot of courage and boldness.
“And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground” (verse 19). Samuel was a shining example of a teenager who had his life grounded in God’s Word. Mr. Flurry writes in The Former Prophets: “He was only a teenager, yet he let none of God’s words fall to the ground! Not even one! That is a marvelous description of a great prophet of God. He was hungering and thirsting for righteousness so much that, in spirit, he got it all. God loved that attitude.” How is your attitude toward prayer and Bible study? Are you eager for every single word?
“We all need more of that attitude—to make it our goal to get every word as perfectly as possible,” continues Mr. Flurry. “If we can do that, you can be sure God will use us to direct and raise up colleges in the future!”
We are going to be raising up Armstrong Colleges for all eternity. If that is something you have as a goal, what are you doing now to prepare for it? You may think that you are young enough to put off spiritual matters and come around to them later in life, but Samuel did not think that way.
The higher the value you place on prayer, the more exciting and effective it will be—but you have to put a high value on it. You have to demonstrate to God that it’s important to you. Prayer is never something you would consider easy—prayer is hard work—but the more you get into it, the more exciting that conversation with God becomes.
Mr. Armstrong’s Prayer Life
Another great example of someone whose prayer life furthered God’s work is Mr. Armstrong. Here is what he wrote in his autobiography about his prayer life: “This was the small—actually infinitesimal—start of what was destined to grow to a major worldwide gospel Work reaching multiple millions of people every week.
“But if small, it started with a burst of energy and inspiration. First, it started with intensive and earnest private prayer. To the rear of the Fisher farm home was a fair-sized hill. Running over this hilltop for exercise I discovered a rock about 14 inches high. It was in a secluded spot. It came to mind how Jesus had dismissed the multitudes, and gone up into a mountain ‘apart’ to pray—alone with God. I dropped to my knees before this rock, which seemed just the right height to kneel before, and began praying earnestly for the success of the meetings. It became sort of a daily pilgrimage, during my stay at the Fishers’, to this, which became my ‘prayer rock.’ I’m sure that I drank in much energy, spiritual strength and inspiration at that prayer rock.”
Mr. Armstrong’s prayer rock was where he drank in the energy he needed to do God’s Work. If you, too, want to be fired up for God’s Work, then prayer is where it has to start!
At the start of Mr. Armstrong’s ministry, the Sardis Church was not bearing a lot of fruit. They were dead spiritually (Revelation 3:1), all because they weren’t drinking in the energy they needed through prayer. On one occasion, Mr. Armstrong was nominated to give public messages to try to revive the work. He agreed to do this if the members of the congregation would agree to one condition: “If every one of you here at this meeting will pledge yourselves right now to devote not less than one hour every day to earnest and believing and prevailing prayer for the success of these meetings—for God to help me and speak through me—for God to cause the ones He is calling and drawing to attend—and for God to convict the ones He is calling—and if you will solemnly pledge to keep up this hour or more a day of prayer, beginning now, and until the last night of the meetings—then I will undertake this campaign.”
The congregation agreed to pray an hour a day, and the campaign was successful! As Mr. Armstrong’s whole life can attest, prayer is what will make any endeavor run smoothly. I can always remember my father’s response when I told him about anything that was going wrong in my life. His response was always to ask, “Have you taken this to God? Have you prayed about it?” As a teen, I sometimes wondered, Isn’t there any other cause for this, aside from not praying enough about it? In my father’s mind, there wasn’t!It all boils down to prayer. That is your lifeline! When we need help, we can “phone a friend” through prayer, and that friend is God!
James 5:16 says, “… The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Does your prayer “avail much”? The next few verses in this chapter talk about the end-time Elijah. Notice that! The verses about Mr. Armstrong are preceded by a verse about prayer. Mr. Armstrong said of his ministry: “… There is not one thing I have had to rely on God for, and ask him for in prayer, for myself and family and the wonderful Work of His which He has committed to me, that has not been answered” (April 1980 Good News). What an example! That’s someone who had his heart in the Work. That’s someone who had a passionate prayer life—who was fired up for his royal future.
You may think that you’re not capable of prayer like Mr. Armstrong’s, but the Bible says differently: “[Elijah] was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit” (James 5:17-18). God heard and responded to Mr. Armstrong, a man just like you and me. If he could do it, so can you!
If you pray as James 5:16 describes, such prayers will give your life direction and open exciting doors. Don’t be jealous of others or sit around wishing for opportunities and blessings to fall into your lap. Go to God and ask for responsibilities and open doors! That’s what Mr. Armstrong did, and look what happened: His prayer rock is now a symbol of God’s throne! Don’t forget where the new throne of David started—with one man humbly praying to God for help.
How to Get Fired up to Pray
Throughout the prophet Jeremiah’s life, he was heavily persecuted. He was thrown in prison many times, and even buried up to his neck in a pit of mire. Many princes in Judah wanted him killed. He was discouraged and worn out. There were moments when he, like you, got a little negative and discouraged. But he never gave up! In Jeremiah 23:9, he wrote, “Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the Lord, and because of the words of his holiness.” Jeremiah’s relationship with God really moved him! What got him back on track every time he was tempted to give up was his relationship with God—his prayer and his study.
“Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay” (Jeremiah 20:9). He couldn’t just quit! God’s words burned like a fiery furnace inside him.
Talking to God in prayer fires us up! It fired up Jeremiah, Samuel, Mr. Armstrong and all the other great men of God. None of you are too young to establish the habit of prayer and study every day.
Everybody struggles with sleepy prayers at times, but you can improve at this if you’re willing to put in the work. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Timothy was a workman when it came to his spiritual life. How hard are you willing to work to give God your best time in the morning?
What was Jesus Christ’s prayer life like? “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). Nobody has had as many demands on their schedule as Jesus Christ! Yet look what He did to get in the daily. He had to get up a great time before morning. He didn’t stumble into His routine. He got His prayer in, no matter what was going on around Him. He was human like us, but His prayer fired Him up! He even sent the multitudes away when He needed to go apart to a mountain to pray.
“Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared” (Hebrews 5:7). Jesus Christ prayed so boldly, so energetically, so fervently, that once He even sweat blood (Luke 22:44)! That’s how dependent He was on His prayer life to get Him through trial and His supreme test! His primary focus in life was on how He talked to God in prayer. That also needs to be our primary focus. Christ knew that once you stop praying, you start dying spiritually!
“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:14-15). Christ is our Advocate and High Priest. He knows exactly what it is like to fight the pulls of the flesh. He adds quite a dimension to the God Family throne room. Because of His experience as a human, He advocates on our behalf and gives God input on how hard some of our struggles can be. God wants to be perfectly just in the way that He deals with us. The two of them listen intently to our prayers. That is why Paul admonished us, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (verse 16). The Moffatt translation of Hebrews 4:16 says to come before God’s throne with confidence. We all need godly confidence, and we obtain that confidence by offering up effectual, fervent, fired up prayers that avail much!
Don’t stay where you are—improve your prayer life! Come boldly before God’s throne. Be responsive. Tell God you hear Him and ask Him what direction He wants you to go in everything. Be like Christ, Jeremiah, Mr. Armstrong and Samuel: Daily go to God on your knees and get fired up!