Prayer is a tough subject for most people. As I was thinking about how to approach this topic, it dawned on me that prayer is like eating healthy. 1) We know prayer is important, 2) it is beneficial for us. 2) We have a strong desire to do it, yet 3) We often struggle to have a consistent, vibrant prayer life.
Like eating healthy, we are challenged with many of the same issues. Many aren’t sure what to do. We are not satisfied nor confident about how to do it. Nor do we have a grasp on what to pray for so at the risk of doing it wrong and somehow offending God, we just choose not to engage in the spiritual discipline.
To unpack some of the fear and sense of inadequacy attached to prayer, I will focus the next few Wednesdays on the topic. For the purpose of full disclosure, I am by no means a prayer warrior. So will figure this out together.
Some Keys For A Vibrant Prayer Life From The Apostle Paul And Jesus:
1 Praying Without Ceasing. “17 pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17
This verse has been the source of misunderstanding and confusion. The complexity is found in the translation of “Pray Constantly” The Greek word translated “constantly” really means, “without ceasing;” this is not to be understood, with a continual, like Paul prayed day and night event. Paul is not saying we should be praying 24/7. If you have tried this, you have discovered just how difficult that endeavor is, so the result of that epic failure is to question your spirituality and dedication or love for God. In comparison, prayer becomes like that failed eating healthy attempt broccoli vs. chocolate cake. Since I neglected to make the right choices I just give into temptation, “Bring on the cake.”
Paul in Thessalonians was encouraging his churches to make prayer a part of their personal spiritual discipline (see also, Phil 4:6). He and his coworkers prayed together regularly (2 Thess 1:11; Rom 1:10) and valued the prayers of the church on their behalf.
12 Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer. Romans 12:12 (CEV)
9 And I tell you: Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 Everyone who asks receives. Whoever seeks, finds. To everyone who knocks, the door is opened. Lk 11:9-10
The Apostle Luke shares with the world what Jesus taught them about praying with a bold persistence. Jesus uses an illustration of a man coming to a friend for help. At first, the friend says it is late, and the children are in bed. In other words, this is an awful time. Come back at a more acceptable time. Because to go and unbolt the door would awaken the children. However, the friend was bold in his persistence. He would keep asking, keep knocking and keep seeking. The lesson on prayer from our Lord revolves around these three different approaches to prayer.
The concept of “Ask” is commonly used for prayer. To best understand this it must explain that in the Greek it is not imperative of command (“You must ask to receive”) but as an imperative of condition (“If you ask, you will indeed receive). The force of this Scripture is not a command of Jesus to pray, but instead and an invitation to prayer.
So God then is not viewed as a genie sitting high on His Throne demanding that you pray to Him to get your every wish granted. Since prayer is an invitation, it does not mean that everything we prayed for will be answered. In that same section of Scripture, Jesus explains, about receiving gifts from the Father. In verse 11-13, “11 “If your child asks you, his father, for a fish, would you give him a snake instead? 12 Or if your child asks you for an egg, would you give him a scorpion? 13 Even though you’re evil, you know how to give good gifts to your children. So how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” Therefore, our Heavenly Father proves to us that he is our Father, and we are, indeed, his precious children by giving to us those things that are beneficial to us.
“Searching” is frequently used to describe seeking after/for God
29 You will seek the Lord your God from there, and you will find him[a] if you seek him with all your heart and with all your being. -Deut 4:29
“Seek the Lord when he can still be found; call him while he is yet near. Isa 55:6
I like to describe it this way God places a God-size hole in the human soul. That can only be satisfied and filled with the presence of the Almighty. For us to seek God is to desire that spiritual connection with God’s face through prayer.
I have heard this described this way “knocked at the gates of mercy and finding that they were open to us.”
This verse is an example of the divine passive (“it will be given to you” means God will give it to you. In saying “it will be opened to you” means God will open it to you) and of Jesus’ use of exaggeration, make it very clear that not all prayers are answered. Prayers that are answered are those in line with God’s will and would include an implied reference to Jesus prays in the garden before His date with Calvary “yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
When children first start to color, they have two problems. First, they might choose colors that are inappropriate. Secondly, once the colors are selected, they have a difficult time keeping the colors within the boundary lines. As they mature and keep on coloring, they learn to keep within the guidelines and to choose the appropriate colors, resulting in a satisfying picture.
As children of our Heavenly Father, our prayer life often resembles a child’s coloring. At first, we don’t know what to pray for nor do our prayers stay within the guidelines of His will. As we mature and continue praying, though, we pray for the right things and stay within His will, resulting in a satisfying prayer life. With consistency and bold persistence, we learn to develop a healthy vibrant prayer life.
Other blogs in this series on Prayer:
Because we are never alone
Annette Leeann Flores
Ideas of Light that Penetrate the Ideas of Darkness (To read this blog in context, readers should start at the earliest date of a series)
A Joint Project of Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries and Word & World
Think Different, Lead Different, Impact Differently
Steps in Obedience
Christian devotional that is the result of life lived for Jesus Christ