"So many of you are trying to live your life without breathing!"
Now what about Zechariah 13:8-9? It tells us one of the main ways that God awakens earnest prayer in his children, namely, in the refining fires of suffering. . .
Verse 8: “In the whole land, declares the Lord, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive.” So the one third represents God’s remnant—his faithful, imperfect, weak people, who do not pray with the kind of discipline and desperation and joy, and hunger for God, that they should. So what is God’s remedy? What is his school of prayer?
Verse 9: “And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested.” Notice carefully what is happening. In his great love, God saved the one third from being cut off with the two thirds who perished (v. 8). And then as part of his love for them, he puts them in the fire to be tested and refined. That is normal Christianity. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).
Put in the Fire to Awaken Prayer
But what is it that God wants to see change in his people? Verse 9: “I will test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them.”
God puts us in the fire to awaken us, so that we'll pray. He does this out of His great love for us, knowing that in praying we gain power, we gain the Presence of Almighty God, we gain purpose to serve Him. It is our privilege.
Almost 500 years ago, John Calvin commented on Zechariah 13:9, and what he said then is more true today:
It is therefore necessary that we should be subject, from first to last, to the scourges of God, in order that we may from the heart call on him; for our hearts are enfeebled by prosperity, so that we cannot make the effort to pray. (Commentary onZechariah 13:9 [Baker, 2003], 403, emphasis added)
John says that it's a duty to pray, but it is not to be viewed as a legalistic rule. It is a means of grace.
Do I go to pray with many of you . . . out of duty? Is it a discipline?
You can call it that. It’s a duty the way it’s the duty of a scuba diver to put on his air tank before he goes underwater. It’s a duty the way pilots listen to air traffic controllers. It’s a duty the way soldiers in combat clean their rifles and load their guns. It’s a duty the way hungry people eat food. It’s a duty the way thirsty people drink water. It’s a duty the way a deaf man puts in his hearing aid. It’s a duty the way a diabetic takes his insulin. It’s a duty the way Pooh Bear looks for honey. It’s a duty the way pirates look for gold.
Just as we cannot live life without breathing, we cannot live the Christian life without praying. Don't even try.