The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing, but isn’t that impossible to do? Surely God didn’t mean for us to be in prayer constantly. That is just asking too much of us, isn’t it?
Why should we pray? Deuteronomy 4:7 tells us, “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?” We have a God who wants to be near us and wants a relationship with us. Prayer is the way we keep in touch with our God. It should be a conversation.
Many times I just imagine Jesus sitting in the passenger seat of my car while I drive down the road. I just speak to him like I would a friend. If there is a problem I am dealing with at work or at home, if I am having a problem with a relationship or a financial hardship, I just tell him. He wants to know about these things. He really cares about our daily lives. My prayers wouldn’t even sound like prayers to some people. But God knows my heart and he knows that I want to share my concerns with him.
In 1 Samuel 12:23 we read about Samuel the prophet speaking to the people of Israel. “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.” What we see in this instance is that God expects us to pray for others. His spirit puts people and their needs in our hearts. If we fail to pray for them, it is a sin.
Years ago I was impressed to pray for friends and relatives in a different way. I don’t live in the town where I grew up. All of my family members live at least 100 miles from me. Most of us have been shopping or driving down the road and seen someone who reminds us of someone we know. When I see someone who resembles a family or former co-worker, old neighbor or friend, I see it as an opportunity to pray for that person. I figure that God has put that person in my pathway for a reason and maybe their look-alike needs a blessing at that particular time. This is a form of praying without ceasing.
Jesus taught his disciples to pray and not give up. He told them a parable about a widow who kept approaching a judge about her adversary. Day after day she would come before him with her request. Finally, out of frustration and just plain getting tired of listening to her, he granted her request.
Now, I’m not sure that this parable means we should wear God out with constantly asking for the same thing over and over, but I do think that we have every right, as children of the king, to ask for God to deliver us from our adversary, the devil.
So when we are having spiritual problems and we know that the evil one is attacking us, we have the right to ask God to take care of the problem for us. In Luke 18:7-8 we read, “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice and quickly.” These chosen ones cried out day and night - they prayed without ceasing.
How many times have you been standing in a checkout line at a department or grocery store and the people in front of you have an item that won’t scan? How many times have you been shopping all day and it’s late, you’re tired and so is the little kid in the cart in front of you. He’s crying and you just want to join him. What do we, as Christians, do when we find ourselves in this situation? I used to mumble and complain about the line or the cashier being so slow.
But the spirit put it in my heart one day to pray instead of getting upset. Now I see delays as an opportunity to pray what I call “blanket prayers.” As I wait in line now I ask the Lord to bless everyone who is in the store at that moment. I also ask him to draw everyone close to himself. Not just the people there right now, but also everyone who has entered the store during the course of the entire day. I ask him to put Christians in their pathways, I ask him to give each person the opportunity to hear the message of salvation. The longer I wait, the more I pray. I pray for cashiers, for babies, for parents and teenagers. And as I start to pray for all these people, I begin to see them through God’s eyes of love. That is praying without ceasing.
Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” Romans 8:26. Ever feel that you should pray, but you aren’t sure just what to ask God? Some situations are so overwhelming or devastating that we just don’t know what to say. But we don’t need to worry because the Spirit of God knows how to approach the throne, God’s spirit knows the right words to say.
Jonah was swallowed by a big fish. He knew he had messed up. He didn’t do what God had asked him to do and now he was fish food. He wasn’t dead, but he might as well be. What did he do? Jonah 2:1 says, “from inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.” His prayer came from his heart and from God’s Spirit. He didn’t know what to say, but the Spirit prayed for him. He had a repentant heart, that was the necessary ingredient for prayer.
In Luke 18 we read about two men praying in the temple. “The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” The tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” God knows our hearts, we can’t fool him with wordy prayers.
Praying for the needs of others especially for the needs of other believers is an acceptable prayer. Are your prayers self-centered? Are you more concerned with getting your needs met than those of others? That isn’t what prayer is all about. It is one thing to tell God your problems, he wants us to talk with him about our concerns, but it is like spending time with someone who can only talk about themselves. The conversation is too one-sided. God wants us to be concerned for others, that shows that we have a heart like him.
When you watch the news and you hear about a flood or a tornado, an earthquake or typhoon, do you immediately pray for the people in the midst of that situation? Do you ask God to minister to their needs? Do you ask him if he can use you in some way to help? That is God’s heart for people.
The prayers of righteous people are pleasing to God. “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:12. He loves each person on the face of the earth and he wants us to have a heart like his. When we show a desire to pray for the needs of others, he knows that we are exhibiting his love. We are his hands and feet on this earth, we are his voice of comfort and we represent Jesus to everyone we meet. Look for opportunities to pray in behalf of people. That is praying without ceasing.
You are so mighty and powerful, you are so gracious and loving. We want to be like you. We want our prayers to be mighty and powerful. We come to you on behalf of lost souls, we come to your throne every chance we get to lift others up and ask for blessings in their behalf. We know that you hear our prayers when we don’t have the right words to say. We trust in your Spirit to direct us in our prayers to you. We want to have a continual conversation with you and we realize that it is possible only because Jesus Christ is our mediator. Give us opportunities and teach us new ways to keep our relationship with you fresh and new. We ask these things in the name of Jesus, our savior and friend. Amen.