The apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
I’ve been thinking about the “pray without ceasing” command in particular this week. This week I’ve seen friends dealing with death, hospitalization, waiting on test results, traveling, kids heading to college, and the list goes on. I find myself saying over and over, “I’ll be praying for you.” Perhaps you’ve seen the same thing on Facebook or said the same thing. But what does that mean? What do my prayers for others look like?
I suppose if we are to “pray without ceasing,” it indicates hearts that are prayerful, bent towards prayer, praying as we come and go through our days and the situations in them, so we can pray right then for those we commit to pray for. But do I also take the time to really invest in prayer and to pray in faith (James 1:6), asking God to increase my faith where I sense I doubt (Mark 9:24)?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us how to pray (Matt. 6:5-13). Do I take time to get on my knees in a posture of humility and prayer, and find a private place to pray (6:5-6)? Again, do I come in faith, or do I simply come with words (6:7-8)?
From the Lord’s Prayer, we learn to pray by hallowing Jesus’ name and according to his will. We pray for our daily needs and seek God’s forgiveness as we forgive others. We pray deliverance from evil and protection from temptation. We acknowledge God’s glory, power, and kingdom. Each of these includes the aspects of Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (ACTS as an acronym to help guide us in prayer).
Those verses enlarge my prayers as I consider things bigger and higher than only what I can see. Next time I say “I’ll pray for you,” rather than simply uttering a few words as I go to be sure I have done what I say, why don’t I also note it on my phone or a notepad in my purse? Then when I sit down to pray, add their names to my journal and pray through the list. Don’t simply depend on my memory, though I can pray for them as often as they come to mind, too. Pray Scripture and pray in faith, believing God to do more than I ask, think, or imagine by his power at work (Eph. 3:20). And record the answers. Nothing is too hard for God (Jer. 32:17). And like the disciples, perhaps we can simply ask, “Teach us to pray.”
Matthew 6:9-13: “Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”