Pray Without Ceasing

1 Thessalonians 5:17

Pray continually.

Two simple words very adequately summarize what should be our approach to prayer.  We looked at how we should pray with all kinds of requests.  We should also be praying all of the time.

We’ve seen several times how prayer is a matter of a relationship with God.  Relationships can only continue to be strong when there is communication in them.

Praying continually does not mean that we never stop praying.  Obviously we can’t give our complete focus to more than one thing at a time.  What it does mean is that we are in a prayer-like mindset.  God should never be far from our thoughts.

When we pray on all occasions and with all kinds of requests, we will pray continually.  We pray for safety when we leave for work in the morning.  When we arrive, we thank God for getting us there.  We pray before a big meeting or presentation.  We thank God for our food.

There are going to be times that we are busy and prayer completely slips our mind.  It happens.  If we try to focus on God as much as possible and pray about all things we’ll find that the workday goes by faster, our attitude is better, and even people around us seem nicer.

Prayer isn’t just about asking God for things that we need.  Prayer changes us.  Certainly God works in response to our prayers and He changes situations but the most important change that takes place is often within us.

Prayer in All Occasions

Ephesians 6:18

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

As Christians we often make the mistake of not praying enough.  Our prayers are often very limited in scope: prayer for healing, prayer for safety, prayer for help.

God wants us to be in communication with Him all of the time.  This means we rely on Him for not just the big things but the small things as well.  We thank Him for giving us a good day, not just when He’s helped us overcome a major obstacle.

Many thank God for their food, but how often do we thank God for the opportunity to work and provide for ourselves and family?

Often we keep our prayers focused on physical needs but there are even more spiritual needs.  We can pray for the health of our church, the unity and love of believers, and our outreach into the community.  We can pray specifically for a friend, neighbor, or family member who really needs to find the Lord.

There are all kinds of things that we can and should pray for.  The truth is that we often limit ourselves and thereby limit God.  We don’t receive what we don’t ask for.

The Prayer of a Righteous Man

James 5:16

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

In the previous devotion we saw how sin in relationships, especially marriage, can hinder one’s prayers.  On the other side of that, those who are righteous can expect that God will hear and answer their prayers.

There are different kinds of righteousness in the Bible.  Every Christian is considered righteous because they are forgiven.  But righteousness is unobtainable by following the law.  Even as Christians, we continue to do sinful, unrighteous things.

The key to righteousness in regard to this verse is found in the first half.  Confession is necessary for righteousness.  At salvation we confess our sins but this is in relation to daily confession.  In order to maintain a good relationship with God, we should confess our sins regularly.

We are not going to live a perfect, righteous life.  Our sin hurts our relationship with God.  Praying to God in the midst of a damaged relationship may not be effective.  But in a healthy relationship we can expect God to respond quickly and powerfully.

Confession shouldn’t be used as a ploy to get God to answer our prayers.  God knows our heart and knows when we are truly sorry for our sins.  Those who have a genuine relationship with God are going to confess regularly and see their prayers unhindered.

Husbands and Prayer

1 Peter 3:7

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

There’s a lot to talk about in regard to the proper way that husbands and wives should live together.  For the moment though we’ll focus solely on how our relationships affect our prayer life.

We don’t often think about how our relationships with others affect our relationship with God, least of all, our marriage.  God wants us to have healthy relationships however and the most important human relationship is in marriage.

When we treat our spouse in a sinful manner it obviously harms our relationship with our spouse.  But all sin also harms God.  He loves us and wants the best for us even, or perhaps especially, in what we consider personal and intimate relationships.

A marriage is between a man and a woman but God should be a major part of that relationship as well.  A couple should regularly pray together and for one another.

When we take God out of our marriage, we leave Him out of a huge part of our lives.  Acting in an ungodly way to our spouse is no different from telling God that He doesn’t belong in your marriage.  We should be very careful how we treat others, our spouses especially.  We should always seek what is God’s will and what is best for our spouses.

If we fail to treat our spouses properly and leave God out of our marriage, we shouldn’t expect Him to respond when we call to Him.  After telling God to stay out of our marriage, why should we expect Him to respond later on?

Prayer Defeats Worry

Philippians 4:6

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

In a perfect world we would trust God completely and never worry about anything.  At the end of Matthew 6, Jesus speaks about worry and implores His listeners to consider how God takes care of the birds of the field.  He reminds them that God cares much more for them than the birds of the field.

In reality, we worry from time to time and some people worry more than others.  There are lines between wanting to be prepared, concern, and outright worry and they are hard to define.  At some point worry becomes sinful because it demonstrates a lack of trust in God.

One of the best ways to defeat worry is to turn to God in prayer.  For starters, turning to God in prayer demonstrates that we trust Him to answer our prayers.  This turns the focus away from our efforts to solve a particular problem and focuses on God and His ability to handle any problem.

Prayer with thanksgiving goes one step further in eliminating worry.  When we give thanks for God, we acknowledge what He has done for us.  By remembering what God has done for us, we gain confidence that God will continue to be with us.  This helps eliminate worry by building trust in God because we remember everything that He has done in the past.