How often do you pray?
“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18, RSV)
In writing his first letter to the Thessalonian Church, the Apostle Paul wanted to hammer home the notion that Christians need to pray fervently. The apostle James encouraged his readers with the words that “the fervent prayer of a righteous person accomplishes much” (James 5:17). What is fervent prayer? It is prayer that is constant and sincere and reverent and engaging. Fervent prayer is used by a person who is absolutely convinced that God not only hears prayer but answers it. In this same vein of thought as with James, Paul wrote for the Thessalonian Christians to “rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Paul reaffirmed to the Thessalonians that fervent prayer was “the will of God in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). God desired this kind of praying from the Thessalonians. Do you realize that God also desires this kind of praying from you?
The scripture above does not encourage you to pray “when you feel like it”. It does not desire that you should pray only when in worship or in the presence of another religious person. The scripture for today clarifies that your prayers should occur “constantly”. They should be filled with rejoicing “always”. In your prayers, thanksgiving should come not once a year in November but in ALL circumstances. Thus, these verses above describe that the prayers of every Christian should occur “always”, “constantly”, “in all circumstances”. With these words, God is hoping to have communication with you ALL DAY LONG, EVERY DAY!
During a Bible study on 1 Thessalonians, a man questioned me, “How can we pray constantly?” I asked him, “Do you ever talk to yourself in your thoughts inside your head?” “Yes”, he responded. I then answered, “Well, when you have those conversations inside your head, just make sure to include God! When you see something that startles you, thank God for His protection. When you hear that voice in your head bring forth doubts, ask God for strength and courage. When someone questions your motives, ask God to bring you clarity of mind and purity of heart. If you include God in your thoughts, and turn your thoughts into little prayers; a conversation can occur with God all day long!”
Pursuant to this line of thinking, Max Lucado wrote: “Give God your waking thoughts. Before you face the day, face the Father. Before you step out of bed, step into his presence. Give God your waiting thoughts. Spend time with him in silence. Give God your whispering thoughts.… Imagine considering every moment as a potential time of communion with God. Give God your waning thoughts. At the end of the day, let your mind settle on him. Conclude the day as you began it: talking to God.” (P. 192, Grace for the Moment). The unwritten wisdom behind Lucado’s words is that you can carry on a conversation with God throughout your day. And what is prayer, but conversation with God!
In her earliest recollections of prayer time, Jillian remembered praying before meals or at bedtime. Then, when Jillian became a young woman, she used to think of prayer time as something you did in church with a priest. Jillian got used to praying when in the sanctuary or in the presence of the priest. After graduation from High School, Jillian went to a Catholic University. There, she was taught to pray at mealtime, during worship, before bedtime, and especially at holy times of the year. Jillian was a dedicated prayer participant at each of these occasions.
When Jillian met John and got married, her prayer life changed dramatically. John was a protestant missionary to Ghana. Jillian noticed that John was always praying. He would pray under his breath as he drove. He would mumble a prayer when nervous. He would grab Jillian’s hand and start praying at a moment’s notice. Jillian was shocked how often John prayed! More and more, Jillian noticed that prayers began to come from her own lips at various times during the day and night. She even found herself initiating prayer with absolute strangers! She never would have done this as a child!
What you see in Jillian’s life is very common for the prayer warrior. Prayer warriors are people who learn to pray “without ceasing”. They are always praying in the mind, in the heart, whispering a prayer in traffic, or uttering a prayer of deliverance after a stressful event. They pray constantly. They talk with God throughout the day. They lean on God, open their heart to the Savior, and listen for God’s direction. Prayer warriors have great spiritual power, not because of the amount of their praying, but because of their closeness with God!
You can never become a prayer warrior without speaking with God constantly. You need that direct connection with God to help you discern good from evil and right from wrong. When you are on the front lines of the spiritual war, prayer maintains your communication with your Lord. All soldiers know the importance of keeping open the lines of communication with their superiors during a battle!
Constant prayer with God evolves over one’s lifetime. Most children do not understand how it works. That is why parents often initiate prayer time at various points during the day. But, as a person grows up, they need to develop adult practices with God that include constant prayer. That is why the faithful are urged to pray during worship and why Catholics are asked to carry a rosary and recite the “Hail Mary”. That is why people are encouraged to pray before meals and before bedtime and when meeting with fellow Christians. All the prayers one learns in life should encourage the faithful to start talking with God throughout the day, in happy moments and sad, when tired or angry or hopeful. Sadly, all too many Christians don’t take the time to develop a prayer life of constant communication with God. Because of this, they are often left behind when God needs true spiritual warriors.
Do you pray constantly yet? Is your day filled with conversation with God? Have you learned to listen for God’s voice while praying? Do your prayers go both ways between here and Heaven? Paul wanted all the faithful to pray constantly. If only all the faithful did so, I wonder how the world would change……?