This topic will revolve around approaching prayer in a godly way, including clearing up any misunderstandings and avoiding bad habits. Prayer is a simple matter between the believer and God, not something we should complicate and ritualize. Therefore, unless we are praying in a group with other spiritual family members, praying on our own should be a private matter (Matthew 6:5-8).
Prayer has many benefits. We pray for healing, to confess sins, pray for others, pray for ourselves, praise and thank the Lord, remember all the great things He has done for us, combat sin, etc. It would be impossible to create a comprehensive list. There are so many benefits that time, space, and probability do not allow us to discuss this in-depth. What a believer chooses to talk about is between them and the Lord.
However, our subject involves how to approach prayer. The question is, what should we do and what should we avoid? The benefits of communicating with our heavenly Father are immense, but there are some valuable things to know. Below are some questions and points to help out with this.
How do we interpret the phrase, “Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17)?” What exactly does this passage mean?
Praying without ceasing does not mean praying every single minute of the day
There is no specific amount of time we have to pray in a twenty-four-hour period, nor is there any particular length a single prayer must be. Additionally, it is not sinful to pray only a little each day. However, more prayer is almost always better. The believer should make it a habit to strive to communicate with their Savior without wavering. The more we do so, the more we will grow, progress, and produce. Therefore, it is best to stay consistent in our good habits.
So how often and how long should we pray?
Again, there are no specific rules for this, and those who try to create such regulations fall into a legalistic trap. However, the points below demonstrate how continuous prayer is an absolute necessity for the believer every single day.
We all sin multiple times every day
That means we will need to go to God in prayer to confess our known transgressions whenever we are aware that we have committed them.
Satan will tempt us throughout the day
We will need to go to God for help in prayer to overcome all satanic attacks and/or temptations. Spiritual combat is an everyday experience God calls everyone to engage in aggressively.
Every believer experiences testing through multiple trials and tribulations throughout their life
During these experiences, we will need to go to the Lord for strength and healing to endure every day to overcome our struggles continuously.
To get the most out of our daily Bible study, we need to make sure we have given ourselves over to the Spirit
It is easy to get distracted, and this requires us to “cede” our focus and attention over to God. When we get distracted (everyone loses their focus at some point each and every day), we must go to God in prayer for strength. When faced with obstacles vying for our attention, it is always better to rely on Him instead of trying to force ourselves to concentrate in the power of our flesh.
Praying daily for our brothers and sisters in the Church
Ephesians 6:18 makes it clear that it is a good idea to pray on behalf of the church, especially persecuted believers throughout the world. It is not mandatory to pray for our brothers and sisters every day but highly commendable. The Bible is not shy about encouraging us to do so (Hebrews 13:3).
How and where we pray matters little
To add to the above, how and where we pray matters little. Some pray quietly to themselves while sitting down. Others pray out loud while pacing the floor. Anywhere we go, we can whisper to God. Of course, we need to make sure we aren’t putting ourselves or others in danger. There are times we can’t and shouldn’t pray due to some job or activity that demands our full attention.
If we need to pray, we always can
There is no place we can’t pray if we need to! If Satan throws temptation in our minds, the Lord will always allow us a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Our frequency may naturally ebb and flow with life and circumstances
There will be times in every believer’s life where they will pray less. But there will also be periods where more will naturally occur.
But we should never let ourselves grow lazy in prayer
Nevertheless, we should never slack off and neglect our prayer life just because times are easy. The command to “pray without ceasing” does not apply to hard times only but to all times. Easier circumstances can be some of the most difficult because we tend to relax our spiritual resolve by letting our guard down. Some know this as the “prosperity test,” one of the most challenging to pass. Therefore, we must always be alert and spiritually sober at all times (1 Peter 5:8-9).
We don’t need to repeat ourselves. God hears us the first time
All believers need to remember that we need only ask God for something once in a single prayer. Our heavenly Father heard us the first time, meaning we don’t need to repeat the same phrases and requests repeatedly for them to be heard. Prayer takes faith!
God is so more responsive to us than any human could ever be
Moving on from the points above, we have the parable of the widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8) to help show us that God will grant us help and deliverance in our times of greatest need, all times to be more precise. Unlike the unjust judge and the other reluctant friend, our Lord is fair and loving and will not turn down our requests. God is more eager to give us good things than anyone! That is the point of that parable. He is not unmerciful and uncaring, but just, loving, and compassionate. No mere human can compare to Him. This parable uses extremes (the sleeping friend and the unjust judge as polar opposites of our Savior) to boost our faith in God. Suppose two selfish and reluctant people (individuals most unlikely to lend a helping hand) finally help those in need (albeit with impure motives). How much more likely will God, who will not withhold anything good from His own, provide for us?
14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
What about James 4?
An example of how not to pray
James chapter four is very straightforward on how we AREN”T to pray. God always answers our prayers with either a yes or a no, and we should try our best to discern what the Lord would want us to have by seeking His Will for our lives through spiritual growth (something none of us do flawlessly). However, we must not pray with impure motives or with a bad attitude. Such requests do not stem from faith and obedience but purely from the flesh. Prayer requires humility! We must not pray with hypocrisy.
Even if our attitude is right, we aren’t guaranteed what we ask for. It depends upon God’s Will
However, praying with the right mindset does not mean God will give us what we want if it is not in His Will for us to have what we have requested. We may not receive it. Or perhaps we may have to wait a long time. God is sovereign and does what He wishes and what is best for us. We can’t manipulate our Lord by putting Him in a box. James 4 says in verses 1-3:
1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passion are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
Even if we do not have the right words, God will help us
We don’t always know what to pray for (Romans 8:26), but the Spirit will intercede to give us the words to speak.