Sunday, January 19, 2014

Praying Outside the Box

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  (1 Thess 5:16-18)

Prayer is one of those topics that usually generates quite a few questions.  How, What, Where, When, Why?  I’m not going to claim to have answers to any of these questions; I have plenty of questions of my own.  My hope here is that I can give you an idea or two you can use to renew your prayer life or maybe get you to think about prayer in a way you may not have in the past.

As we move through life, we all fall into habits that get us through our daily grind.  For most of us prayer is no exception.  This applies to each of the how, what, where, when and whys we have when we pray.  It is because of habit that I think most of us have prayer that is not as effective as it could be.

Even starting with the best of intentions we can slip into bad habits and if we aren’t paying attention it can adversely affect our prayer life.  It really doesn’t matter how or why; the important thing is to get back on track when we stray.  That is why we have to stay vigilant against busyness, laziness, distraction, and complacency.

Take some time to think about your prayer life.  Does it look anything like this?  “Prayer must not be our accidental work, but our daily business, our habit and vocation.  As artists give themselves to their models and poets to their classical pursuits, so we must addict ourselves to prayer.  We must be immersed in prayer as in our element, and so ‘pray without ceasing’ (1 Thess 5:17).  I read this the other day in Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon and had to pause and take some time to think about my prayers.  How about you, is yours like this?  If it is, great!  Keep going.  If not, that’s ok, you can turn it around and make it right.

There is good news!  First, we have an intercessor, stepping in to pray for us when we don’t know what to say or how to express ourselves, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.  For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us the groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom 8:26).  Second and I think even better.  God gives us grace.  No matter how stale our prayer life gets, God is always there waiting for us.  “Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefor He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.” (Is 30:18)

So why do we want to have a vibrant prayer life?  Prayer is how we interact with God.  God wants to spend time with us.  He wants us to bring Him our joys and our sorrows, to openly share every aspect of our lives with Him.  Yes, He already knows all of these things, but that is not the point.  Sharing the hurts helps bring healing.  Sharing the victories makes them better (think about it, how do you feel after you share a victory with a friend?).  The more you share with God, the greater the bond and the deeper the relationship you can have with Him. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

In practice, prayer should not have starting or stopping points, appropriate or inappropriate settings, or even set times.  If you search through scripture, you will not find any boundaries in which prayer fits in.  In fact when you read about prayer in the bible the idea is one of praying everywhere and at anytime.  Paul tells us this in 1 Thessalonians 5 (see above), Ephesians 6:8 “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit…”, and in Colossians 4:2 “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.”  Jesus also relayed the need for continual prayer with a parable, see Luke 18.

Something else to remember.  We are all unique.  This means that the relationship each of us has with God is going to be different. This includes our prayer life.  Although there may be similarities in how you and other people pray, it is still as different and unique as you are.  Don’t think that if your prayer life doesn’t look like someone else’s that you are doing it wrong.  Prayer is a matter of the heart.  God doesn’t want a copy of another person’s heart, He wants your.

If your prayer life is good right now, I pray it continues to grow stronger.  Always look for ways to keep it strong and vibrant.  Keep it outside the box.  Don’t let complacency disrupt the blessing you have in this area of your life.  If you feel it has fallen flat, take the time to see if you can figure out where you are stumbling.  Step outside the box, change your approach, and look for ways you can renew your connection with God.  He loves you and is there waiting. Reach out to Him.