Again from my husband’s pen …
A STEP TOWARD CONTINUOUS PRAYER
I Thessalonians 5:15 instructs us to pray without ceasing, or to pray continually. No one likes to be confronted with the verse. Most people I have talked with about this verse, or the many others that call us to a devotion to prayer, readily admit that they fall far short of unceasing prayer. Many will confess that they pray very little and that most of their day is spent without much thought of God or prayer. And yet they will also acknowledge that God tells them to be devoted to prayer. Something has to change. If we are going to follow Christ, we will have to follow him by obeying this command for ceaseless praying.
Let me begin with a disclaimer. I do not hold myself up as a model pray-er. I hope that all who read this either do now, or will exceed me in the depth, devotion, and frequency of prayer. I present these ideas to you as a fellow learner and disciple of Jesus Christ. Some of these I have learned from others and some I have developed along my spiritual journey. I pray that they will challenge you to a greater devotion to prayer and that they will encourage you as you pursue the life of continuous prayer.
As we begin to think about praying, we need to define prayer. Prayer is talking with God. It does not require a certain place or posture. While both of these may be conducive to praying, they are not essential. The only two things needed for prayer are you and God. Since we are in a relationship with him, he is our father and we are his children, prayer is simply talking with our father. As in other relationships, talking together is fundamental to building the relationship. So let’s look at our day and see how we can take a step toward continuous praying.
The morning and the evening serve as natural bookends to our day and to our praying. The books between the bookends are written by each of us throughout the day as we engage our will, make decisions and choices, and as we interact with others. I have heard many teachers stress the importance of time alone with God in the Word and prayer and many can attest to the benefits of such a practice. I agree, but I think our first prayer of the day should be before we get out of bed.
It is now my practice to pray at least two things before my feet hit the floor in the morning. On awakening I ask the Lord to use me for his glory and his purposes. Here is a portion of a prayer from Charles Whiston in his books on prayer, “Lord Jesus, in obedience to your holy claim upon me, I give myself anew to you this day; all that I am, all that I have, to be wholly and unconditionally yours for your using. Take me away from myself, and use me up as you will, when you will, where you will, with whom you will.” I then pray, “Lord, my greatest desire and deepest longing is to honor you and to bring you glory in all I say and do today.” I also pray for my wife, that God will guard her, encourage her and strengthen her for whatever she may face that day. Then I get out of bed.
Much of what we do preparing for our day is mindless. That is, our routine is so routine we do not have to think about what we are doing. So I am learning to capture those minutes for prayer. Showering is a great time for praying. As names of people come to my mind, I pray for them.
You may insert your devotional reading time into your day wherever you choose. Many recommend first thing in the morning. As you read the Word, worship, praise and pray, you can spend an extended time interceding for those on your prayer list. I often like to ask God who I need to pray for, and I pray for whoever comes to mind. I see intercession as a net in which I gather up all those for whom I am praying around the world and draw them close. Bringing others to God in prayer is one of the great privileges we have a believers.
Now the day is beginning to speed up as we go to work or begin our daily routine at home. To me this is an area that requires focused attention to bring every part of our day, even moment-by-moment, under the Lordship of Christ. There is no way to pray continuously unless we learn to pray in the routine of our daily lives. Ask God to guide you as you work. Call out to him often seeking his help and direction in accomplishing your task at hand. A simple, “Lord, help me to solve this problem,” brings God to the forefront of your mind and acknowledges your need for him.
If you work around other people, you have the wonderful opportunity to pray for them all through the day as well. When you encounter someone in the hall, when someone comes into your office, or when you have a phone conversation, remember to pray for the person you meet or interact with. If you have lunch at a restaurant, you can lift everyone in the restaurant to the throne of grace and pray for God to pour mercy and grace into their lives.
The drive to and from work can often be a challenge to our testimony as Christ followers. We have all experienced the less than kind or less than attentive driver. Instead of complaining about them or calling them names, we can pray for them and ask God to protect them from themselves and to protect others from them. We can even pray for God to calm their heart and minister to their needs.
As we drive we will often see people walking along the road. This is an opportunity for what some call an “arrow” prayer. An arrow prayer is simply a quick prayer said for someone you may never encounter again. If you have a home office and see people walking by outside your window, an arrow prayer is perfect for them as well.
From time to time we will find ourselves in large stores with hundreds of other people. I am learning to pray something like this before I enter the store, “Lord, if there is someone in this store that needs a touch from you, someone who needs prayer or your grace, please use me as an instrument you your love and grace to them and give me spiritual sensitivity to those around me.” I then enter the store and begin praying for those around me. As I check out, I pray for the cashier and the people in line with me. I wish I could say that I do this every time I enter a building, but that is not yet the case. But I am in the process of developing more consistency in this area of prayer.
As the day winds down, we can begin to assess the day and our walk with Jesus. The end of the day is a good time for this reflection, maybe confession, and a refocusing of our thoughts and life on Him. Bedtime is a good time to close out the day with our final waking prayer of the day, thanking God for his blessings and praying for a restful night for ourselves and those we love. I have recently found that I like to fall asleep praying.
Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night. I am trying to learn to pray in that moment. I ask God if there is someone for whom I need to pray right then. If someone comes to mind, I pray for them. If no one comes to mind, I begin to pray for my loved ones, and will fall back to sleep praying. This brings my day full circle back to my first prayer of the day when I awake.
I would like to offer a final prayer suggestion. Use prayers from scripture. You can find these in the New Testament mostly in the letters from the Apostle Paul. Ephesians chapters one and three, Philippians chapter one and Colossians chapter one, contain prayers with deep spiritual requests. Matthew chapter six contains the Lord’s Prayer and John chapter seventeen has the prayer Jesus prayed for his disciples.
May God strengthen each of us and may we all take a step toward continuous praying.