“When ye pray…” Luke 11:2
I have come to the conclusion, we read about prayer much more than we pray. I say this, acknowledging that I myself am reading yet another book on prayer. You see, I’m not saying we should read fewer books on prayer; I’m saying we should be praying more. (Let it never be said, I only talk about other people’s shortcomings.) There are some blessed, potentially life-changing books written on the subject, and I’m thankful for every one that I’ve read, and the ones I have yet to read. Believing our Christian life will never rise any higher than our prayer life, if I may, I’d like to offer three simple, biblical adjectives for prayer I think might help us.
“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thess. 5:17
This command may sound overwhelming if you only see prayer as a head-bowed, hand-folded, closet activity. I venture to say we all utilize one or all of these from time to time; but this verse (and others like it) make it clear, the line of communication between us and God, through His Son, should always be open and active. This is the fellowship and communion of the Holy Spirit (Phil. 2:1; 2 Cor. 13:14). It is God-consciousness and conversation that may never reach the lips but will transcend all human communication, and it is the most natural vestibule to worship.
“…instant in prayer.” Rom. 12:12
I see this as different from praying without ceasing. It’s not praying every instant, but making prayer your instant response to the calamities of life. When there is a need, when there is sin, or sudden fear, our first thought should be to go to God in prayer for help, forgiveness, and peace. So often, our first source of comfort is a friend or loved one; our first response to sin in our own life or others is to try to track its source in order to “understand” it; and our first “cure” for restlessness or anxiety is a change of surroundings or people. Instead, all the irritations and adversities of life should make us spring immediately into prayer. Only there will we know what, if anything, should be our next move. a
“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16
Fervency denotes passionate intensity. In fact, the original meaning was “boiling.” Honesty and sincerity should characterize all prayer; otherwise you’re wasting your time and God’s. But some prayer can and must go beyond this to red-hot fervency in order to be “effectual.” It must be Spirit-wrought and Spirit defined. For some, it may be praying all night or more; for others, it may involve fasting or some other deprivation. Still others may be like Hannah, whose prayer was so passionate and intense that it was misunderstood (1 Sam. 1). The thing is, it’s between you and God, and if no one else cares, He is conscious of your agony and the travail of your tears.
Constant in prayer, instant in prayer, and fervent in prayer; I long for all three of these to characterize my life of prayer. If you’re like me, you’re lacking in one or more of them. Prayer should be as natural to a child of God as breathing. It’s simple…until you try to define it. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be explained to be experienced. Just do it.