Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Pray without ceasing

We know the Bible says that we are to pray without ceasing, but prayer is one of those things the church often talks about more than it actually does. The fact is, we're too busy to pray much. Life gets in the way. Sometimes we are so involved in church activities that prayer gets left by the wayside. This can especially be a problem for pastors and other church leaders. Besides, just how much time should we devote in prayer? How in the world could one pray without ceasing anyway? You can't spend all your time on your knees.

It's interesting to look at some of the spiritual giants from the past and their attitudes towards prayer.

Martin Luther once said, "I have so much to do today that I'm going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to get it all done."

We know from the book that bears his name that Daniel prayed three times a day. So did E. M. Bounds, who was an influential pastor around the time of the Civil War. Some of his books remain classics on prayer.

George Whitfield, an important evangelist in both England and the United States, prayed an hour in the morning, an hour in the afternoon, and an hour each evening.

Maybe someone would argue that these individuals lived in a simpler time without all the demands of modern society which meant they had more time to pray than we do today. That would be true. They weren't distracted by televisions, games of the week, movies, and many of the other things that seem to pull people away from spending time with God. They were also not blessed (?) with all the time-saving devices of our modern society such as computers, smart phones, social media, etc.

Their distractions were more in the order of having to make their own bread, growing their own food, cutting their firewood to heat their homes plus serving their churches as pastors and evangelists. I think we need to be very careful to assume they had more time to pray than we do today. The safer assumption is that they took prayer more seriously than many of us do today and sought out times to pray.

I am in no way insinuating that each of us needs to pray three hours or more a day although that would not be a bad thing if you do. God does not love us more if we pray more. I can assure you that I do not spend anywhere close to three hours a day in prayer. In fact, there are times I struggle to pray as I should as much as anyone.

What I am saying that that most of us would do well to make prayer more of a priority in our lives than we do. We need to become more intentional about blocking out times to pray. We also need to realize that we will often accomplish more in our prayers than in anything else we do.

Pray without ceasing. Look for opportunities to pray. If you hear a siren going down the street, stop and pray for those first responders and for those they are going to serve. If you're stuck on the interstate behind a line of cars due to a wreck ahead, pray for those persons involved.  You may not know the situation or what they need, but God does. If you see someone struggling to cross the street, don't honk at them to hurry up. Pray for them. When someone asks you to pray for them, actually do so. We may not pray three hours a day, but each of us can be in an attitude of prayer where we are looking for opportunities to pray.

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