Ever read something in the Bible and thought “how on earth am I supposed to do that?”. Me too! But I discovered that a lot of actions suggested or encouraged in the Bible are there because God knows we can do them through His grace and the Holy Spirit helping us.
So the first in this “How To” series is based on the bible verse 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 verse 17 AMPC: Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly].
When I started to explore my relationship with God more deeply, this was one of the verses that genuinely baffled me. I couldn’t understand how I was supposed to be praying continuously (read: all the time!) when praying for 5 minutes was hard enough.
Never mind that many of us have jobs and businesses that are demanding of our energy and time; while some even have to juggle their jobs with taking care of their home and children. Point is, the way our lives are set up in the world today might seem to be trying to convince us that what the Bible asks of us in prayer is a tall order.
The good news is that this is very doable and I have collated some practical ways of developing this:
Change the way you view prayer: To many people, prayer has usually been a laborious task that is reserved for “when we have time” or “when we feel like” and for something so vital to the Christian body, the enemy is having a filled day as more and more people turn their backs on prayer. Simply put, prayer is communing with God as you would with a trusted friend or parent and is a great way to unburden yourself to Someone who can actually make a difference.
It’s always a way to ensure that we keep our power levels up, as well. The Bible tells us that, “…The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].” (James chapter 5 verse 15 AMP). We need this power to enable us walk more in the Spirit and less in the flesh, keeping our Christian witness remains effective at all times and so that we are increasingly moving in alignment with the will of God.
Prayer is also not the coin you put into a vending machine to churn out the answers you want. It should be seen as one of the ways of getting to know God better which is one of the purposes we were created for. I hope by now we all know the vending machine approach rarely works – “You ask [God for something] and do not receive it, because you ask with wrong motives [out of selfishness or with an unrighteous agenda], so that [when you get what you want] you may spend it on your [hedonistic] desires.” (James chapter 4 verse 3 AMP)
Pray on the go: I used to reserve my prayer time for first thing in the morning which was near impossible because for years I told myself I was just not a morning person or, before I hit the sack at night even though I was always burnt out. Now between not being a morning person and being exhausted at night when I get home at 10pm, I was getting little to zero prayer in as you might imagine.
As I dug deeper into God, I embraced the fact that “…the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with God), and His ears are attentive to their prayer.” (1 Peter chapter 3 verse 12a AMPC). This means we can pray anywhere and about anything to God at any time. Special set times are great nonetheless and should not be replaced but praying on the go also allows our connection to God to remain “online” and it also keeps us attentive to the leading of the Holy Spirit for anything He might want us to pray for.
You can pray in your mind too: Prayer doesn’t always have to be audible especially if you’re where you just can’t speak out like in a meeting or on public transport, for example. I used to struggle with how not speaking out would count as prayer until someone said to me, “does that mean that those who are dumb* can’t pray then?” Since then, I just pray in my mind when in public and on the move or if I just can’t hold it in, I pray in inaudible whispers under my breath. Just be prepared for the odd looks from people who realise your lips are moving with no sound lol!
*Dumb in this case meaning those who are unable to speak, usually as a disability.
Turn every moment into prayer: All our thoughts, deeds, and circumstances are an opportunity to commune with God. If it’s not so great, you can pray to ask God for help and guidance. If something wonderful happened, you can pray as thanksgiving to God. If you have worries, lay them down at the feet of Christ through prayer. It’s really about developing a mindset of relinquishing all control to God and fully trusting in Him because the Bible tells us that He cares greatly for us.
Also, nothing is too little or too big for God to listen to us about. He is never too busy for us either. So talk to Him as often as you can manage about everything and anything. Even that boss at work or that friend or spouse getting on your nerves. Honestly, nothing is off limits with God because He already knows the most intimate details of our lives, so might as well discuss with Him, non?
You don’t always have to know what to pray: This may sound counter-intuitive but one of the uses of prayer is actually to know what to pray in accordance to God’s will. We were never designed to be able to perform a spiritual task such as prayer on our own, “So too the [Holy] Spirit comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads in our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance.” (Romans chapter 8 verse 26 AMPC – emphasis mine). I’ve come to understand that this is not necessarily about speaking in tongues because not everyone can speak in tongues but the Bible makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is available for all believers. The best description I have come across for this verse is by Thomas Schreiner (Romans [Baker], pp. 445-446) who “understands it to refer to groanings that originate from the Spirit, but are experienced by believers. The Spirit burdens us with inexpressible longings to know and do the will of God. He then takes those burdens to the Father in an articulate form on our behalf.” So for the times we might notice that we are deeply burdened by something but may not be able to place our finger on it let alone pray about it, we know the Holy Spirit is taking care of that for us. The key here is to always maintain a spiritual atmosphere in yourself that keeps you attentive to whatever is going on in your spirit because the words ‘comes to our aid’ in the verse above is indicative that we too have a part to play in being spiritually conscious.
You must meditate on God’s word: A big part of developing a ceaseless prayer life is inculcating Scriptures into the depths of your soul through constant meditation.
It’s so important because studying the Word of God gives you a better glimpse of God for yourself and fuels a desire in you to want to draw closer to God. When you draw closer to God, you get clearer pictures of His will and then you are more inspired to pray according to His will, not just for yourself but for those around you and in the capacity God wants to use you in the world.
Also, there is no greater weapon in life than the very Word of God. Knowing what God says on any matter gives us words that we can declare, in prayer, over any situation thereby inviting God to make His promises manifest because “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken and will He not make it good and fulfill it?” (Numbers chapter 23 verse 19 AMP).
Be intentional: Now that you hopefully have a better understanding of this concept of prayer, it’s so important that you are intentional about practicing it. If you wait for when you feel like it or when the time is right, it will never happen or it will happen so sparingly that the effect of it won’t be noteworthy in comparison to what God really wants to do in and through you. I still highly recommend having set times in the day for total focus and stillness in the presence of God away from the day’s distractions – think of tithing your time to God for at least 2.4 hours in a day – alongside your continuous communion with Him at other times of the day. It might even help to set reminders for yourself say, for 10 minutes every hour just to help you get into the swing of it, even draw up a prayer strategy of things you’d like to pray about during the day etc. But you must be intentional about it. Practice makes perfect!
My prayer for you is that you grow to heights you never thought possible in prayer and in God and that you will truly be a friend of God. I also pray that you increasingly, “Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above [the heavenly things], not on things that are on the earth [which have only temporal value].” (Colossians chapter 3 verse 2 AMP). In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Stay prayed up,