Friday, September 26, 2014

Without Ceasing

image used under Public Domain license, photo obtained from pixabay
1 Thessalonians 5:17  Pray without ceasing.

We need to have an attitude of prayer. To be ready to pray "at the drop of a hat". That's not some hyperspiritual, "holier than thou" attitude.  It's more like being like a spiritual fireman.  If you've seen any of the fire department TV dramas, the firemen on duty live at the fire station, eating and sleeping there so that they're immediately available to go out and fight the next fire or deal with the next emergency.

We're supposed to be like those firemen, except in the realm of prayer.  Some of the needs are described in James 5:13-15, "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.  Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:  And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.".  Spiritual firemen.  And there are other parallels.

As I mentioned last time, Satan loves attacking our heavenly life lines.  We've all seen him try to discredit the Word.  And we've all had attacks on our prayer life.  At least in my case, on a personal level, he goes right for the throat like an attacking doberman.  And I have to respond accordingly.

  1. He tries to convince me that I don't pray for each need enough.
  2. He attacks the words I use, suggesting a lack of spirituality in how I pray because my words tend to be extremely simple and not flowery.
  3. He attacks my limited knowledge of what I'm praying for, trying to convince me that I'm missing something important I should be praying for.
  4. He tries to convince me that I need to pray publicly, but can't because of the dullness of my words.
  5. He tries to convince me that prayer is generic and can be done by rote formula.

The responses all come down to the reality of prayer being more in the heart and less in the words.

  • No, I probably don't pray for each need enough.  But God is omniscient.  He knows my desire to drown each need in constant prayer and He knows where I don't meet my intentions.  Yet, there's no condemnation (Romans 8:1).
  • While God may sometimes give me "spiritual" words, my prayer is mostly conversation with God.  I talk to Him from my heart, not from my dictionary.  God never has to ask Himself "Why is Bill talking to me that way?".  And we get along just fine.
  • I've said many times that, thanks to the OSN (Old Sin Nature), our perceptions aren't great. Of course I'm going to be limited in knowledge and understanding.  But Romans 8:26 says, "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.".  What I lack in comprehension is covered by the Spirit of God.
  • As for public prayer, Matthew 6:6 tells us, "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.".  Prayer is between us and God, not us and others. There are times when God wants to use my prayer words to edify someone.  When He decides that, He always supplies the right words.  At any other time, I just let people know there's one more praying and do so privately.  So, no worries about dull words.
  • I've never held a real conversation that was exactly the same as one I had with someone else or was an exact repetition of what I said some other time.  If I lapse into "vain repetition" (Matthew 6:7), I allow ritual to replace personal conversation.
As I said, prayer involves the heart more than our words.  I've spent long periods on a single prayer item and I've also been as short as "cover them, Lord".  But those three words encompass volumes. In prayer, just as in anything else, we need to be careful we aren't so entranced by formulas that we choke out the Spirit's guidance in our prayer life.  That includes whether or not we pray often enough or long enough.  If we fall short, God will let us know gently, with the Spirit guiding us into a solution.

The reality of prayer is that, if we've truly connected with God, we don't need formulas, we don't need to worry about our failings in praying, we don't need a thesaurus to pray properly.  God will guide us and cover us.  That in itself will free our prayer life and allow the Spirit to direct us.

Maybe the biggest insight, what's right for you may not be what God wants for prayer from me (or vice versa).  Prayer is personal.  We can suggest what works for us, but it's up to each of us to try (or not) those things and discover what's right for us.  And, even then, that can change from one prayer time to another.  God doesn't change (Malachi 3:6), but circumstances do and we do.  So, God allows change in how we communicate, for our benefit, because we have a personal God who wants a personal relationship.  Conversation, not ritual.

How's your conversation, today?

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