This excerpt comes from J.C. Ryle’s book “Thoughts for Young Men”….
And one last thing, resolve wherever you are, you will pray.
Prayer is the life-breath of a man’s soul. Without it, we may have a name to live, and be counted Christians; but we are dead in the sight of God. The feeling that we must cry to God for mercy and peace is a mark of grace; and the habit of spreading before Him our sould’s needs is an evidence that we have the spirit of adoption. And prayer is the appointed way to obtain the relief of our spiritual necessities. It opens the treasury, and sets the fountain flowing. If we have not, it is because we ask not (James 4:3)
Prayer is the way to procure the outpouring of the Spirit upon our hearts. Jesus has promised the Holy Spirit, the Comforter (John 14:16). He is ready to come down with all His precious gifts, renewing, sanctifying, purifying, strengthening, cheering, encouraging, enlightening, teaching, directing and guiding into all truth. But then He waits to be entreated.
And here it is, I say it with sorrow, here it is that men fall short so miserably. Few indeed are to be found who pray: many who go down on their knees, and say a form perhaps, but few who pray; few who cry unto God, few who call upon the Lord, few who seek as if they wanted to find, few who knock as if they hungered and thirsted, few who wrestle, few who strive with God earnestly for an answer, few who guve Him no rest, few who continue in prayer, few who watch unto prayer, few who pray always without ceasing and faint not. Yes: few pray! It is just one of the things assumed as a matter of policy, but seldom practiced; a thing which is everybody’s business, but in fact hardly anybody performs.
Young man, believe me, if your soul is to be saved, you must pray. God has no silent children. If you are to resist the world, the flesh, and the devil, you must pray: it is in vain to look for strength in the hour of trial, if it has no been sought for. You may be thrown together with those who never do it, you may have to sleep in the same room with someone who never asks anything of God, -still, mark my words, you must pray.
I can quite believe you find great difficulties about it, difficulties about opportunities, and seasons, and places. I dare not lay down too precise a set of rules on such points as these. I leave them to you conscience. You must be guided by circumstances. Our Lord Jesus Christ prayed on a mountain; Isaac prayed in the fields; Hezekiah turned his face to the wall as he lay upon his bed; Daniel prayed by the riverside; Peter, the apostle, on the housetop. I have heard of young men praying in stables and hay-lofts. All that I contend for is this, – you must know what it is to “enter into your closet�? (Matt. 6:6). There must be stated times when you must speak to God face to face, you must every day have your seasons for prayer. You must pray.
Without this all other advice and counsel is useless. This is that piece of spiritual armor which Paul names last in his list, in Ephesians 6, but it is in truth first in value and importance. This is that meat which you must daily eat, if you would travel safely through the wilderness of this life. It is only in the strength of this that you will get onward towards the mount of God. I have heard it said that the needle grinders of Sheffield sometimes wear a magnetic mouthpiece at their work, which catches all the fine dust that flies around them, prevents it entering their lungs, and so saves their lives. Prayer is the mouthpiece that you must wear continually, or else you will never work on uninjured by the unhealthy atmosphere of this sinful world. – You must pray.
Young man, be sure no time is so well spent as that which a man spends on this knees. Make time for this, whatever you employment may be. Think of David, king of Israel: what does he say? “Evening, and morning, and at noon will I pray and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice�? (Ps. 55:17). Think of Daniel. He had all the business of a kingdom on his hands; yet he prayed three times a day (Dan. 6:10)
See there the secret of his safety in wicked Babylon. Think of Solomon. He begins his reign with prayer for help and assistance, and this his wonderful prosperity (2 Chron. 1:7-12). Think of Nehemiah. He could find time to pray to the God of heaven, even when standing in the presence of his master Artaxerxes (Neh. 2:4). Think of the example these godly men have left you, and go and do likewise.
Oh that the Lord may give you the Spirit of grace and supplication (Zech. 12:10)! “Will you not from this time cry to Me, ‘My Father, You are the guide of my youth’?�? (Jer. 3:4). I would gladly allow all the words of this book to be forgotten, if only this doctrine of the importance of prayer were impressed upon your heart.