July is the month when many nations celebrate independence. The 14th is special to the French, as the Storming of the Bastille in 1789 marked the turning point of the French Revolution. Argentina, Peru and Venezuela commemorate their independence from the early 19th century Spanish Empire in the month of July. The 1st of the month is significant to both Canada, which began its break from the United Kingdom in 1867, and Rwanda, which declared its independence from Belgium in 1962. The date most special to Americans is July 4, 1776, which marked the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the 13 colonies, officially acknowledging separation from British rule. Dozens of other nations have an important “Independence Day” somewhere on the calendar, and so once a year many of us celebrate the extent of freedom we enjoy.
But perhaps every day we declare another form of independence, something not to be celebrated but lamented, for every day we neglect prayer is a day of declaration of independence from God. Failure to pray may be occasional, as our relationship with the Lord varies. We may transition from periods of warm devotion to those of cold apathy. Failure to pray may be unintentional as we become so occupied with other things. Daily responsibilities press in upon us until we collapse in our beds at the end of the day without even thinking to pray. Or failure to pray may be intentional as we conclude prayer “doesn’t work” or, more tragically still, that we don’t need it. Regardless, failure to pray is always irrational, because it does work as long as we pray for the right things, and we desperately need God, as does the needy world around us. And we need Him every day on the calendar.
There was a Man who never declared independence from God. The Lord Jesus’ life on earth was bathed in prayer, teaching us that He was always dependent upon His Father. This in itself should be a strong motivation for us to pray. Philip Yancey wrote, “If I had to answer the question, ‘Why pray?’ in one sentence, it would be, ‘Because Jesus did.’” And we should recall that even while agonizing in Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to His Father, “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luk 22:42).
Admittedly, we have a hard time saying those words. Submitting our will to God’s and yielding control to someone else is the very antithesis of independence. But we would be wise to heed Scripture: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psa 46:10). In the Latin Vulgate, the word for “be still” is vacate, admonishing us to vacate the throne of our lives and declare our total dependence upon the Lord. The way we do this is through prayer, and every day we do so will prove a significant date on the calendar of our short history.
¹ Yancey, Philip. Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), p.50.