Prayer is more than a suggestion

If you were completely honest, how would you rank your current prayer life? Non-existant? Mediocre? Ok? Strong? Or vibrant?

I doubt many of us (including me) would rate ourselves as having a “vibrant” prayer life. What does the Bible say about prayer? Is an “ok” prayer life really ok?

Colossians 4:2 (NASB)

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving;

 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB)

16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

 

Ephesians 6:18 (NASB)

18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,

Hmm. Maybe “ok” isn’t so ok after all.

Notice with me a couple of things about these passages.

1. Prayer is not a suggestion.

These verses are commands for the believer to pray. It makes sense. How can you have a relationship with someone if you never talk to them? Why should our relationship with God be any different?

2. Prayer should be part of our whole day, not just parts of it.

Did you notice that all of these verses talked about prayer like it was integrated into every part of life? Look again. “Devote yourselves to prayer.” “Pray without ceasing.” “Pray at all times.”

How do you do that? If I spend my whole day in my prayer closet, I’d never get anything done — not even the other things the Bible says I should do.

Here’s the thing. Prayer isn’t a “one and done” kind of thing to be reserved for mealtimes and before bed. Prayer should be integrated into every part of life.

Yes, we need dedicated times of prayer. That looks different for each person and depends a lot on your current stage of life. For a busy parent with tiny ones at home, it may be when the kids are safely tucked into the pack-n-play so you can dedicate 60 seconds to focused prayer before tackling your chore list. The point is to spend time focused on our Lord, talking with Him through prayer.

But, that’s not enough by itself. This idea of “pray without ceasing” means prayers should always be on our lips. Our first response to challenges and the unexpected should be prayer.

I think I’ve told the story before of when I delivered food in Ft. Worth, TX. It was an honest living, but stressful work. The restaurants expected you there to pick up the food at a time designated to the minute. Customers wanted their food when it was ordered, so you always felt like you were running late. With zero room for margin, stress levels mounted quickly if you couldn’t find a particular street or apartment.

One night my mother was in town for a visit. I didn’t have time to drop her off at my aunt and uncle’s house before beginning work, so she opted to bring a book and hang out in the backseat while I drove all over town for several hours.

Things were going pretty well until I got an apartment delivery order. You know, I never noticed how poorly most apartment complexes are labeled until I began delivery driving — especially in the dark. Needless to say, I started getting frustrated. Then my internal fuming became external muttering, then the volume rose. As I kept searching and fuming, I heard my mother praying from the backseat. “Lord, please help Nancy find this apartment…”

I did find the right apartment, but it took longer to recognize that Mother’s response was the one I should have had in the first place. Prayer should have been my first response, not boiling frustration.

3. Prayer includes listening.

How often do we approach God with a list of things we want like a kid visiting Santa Clause? God is not Santa. He is not a genie either, waiting around to grant our every wish.

As we pray, we need to be open to hear when God says “no” or “wait.” We need to pray like Jesus:

“…yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Luke 22:42 (NASB)

We need to ask God to change our hearts to be in line with His will and desire for us. We know that God’s way is the best way, even if we can’t always see why at the moment.

4. Prayer includes thinking of others.

Another part of listening is being aware of when other people come to mind. Take a few seconds to pray for that person right then. It could be that something is going on of which you are not aware.

If someone asks you to pray for something or someone, stop and do it right then. How many times have we (including me) said we’d pray for something, then forgotten to do it later. Save yourself the trouble and pray right then.

Also, consider setting up a prayer strategy for your personal prayer time. Consider using The Battle Plan for Prayer by the Kendrick brothers (not sponsored) or 40 Scriptures to Pray Over Your Children by Nancy Ruth (available in our store).

5. Pray alone and with others.

Yes, we are to pray alone (Matthew 6:6), but that isn’t the only way we should pray.

Matthew 18:20 (NASB)

20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

Pray with your spouse. Pray with your family. Pray with your friends. Pray with your church.

Most of all, pray.

What suggestions would you add about developing a vibrant prayer life? Please comment below.

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