Not long ago, our church organized a day called “The 24 Hour Day of Prayer.” People in the church signed up for a half hour segment in which to pray. Missionaries volunteered for the hours we were sleeping.
And every week people were signing up. Except me. I snuck past that table like a spy on a mission. There was no way I would be able to focus on that prayer! But God had a bit of a lesson in mind for me.
One Sunday, I don’t know why, I put my name on that paper. Meredith Green at 2:30. I was stuck.
When my assigned time rolled around, I sighed and went into my room. I worked to put my unfinished chore out of my mindand focus. I bowed my head, closed my eyes… and before I knew it, the half hour was gone!
Not only that, but I felt my focus had shifted away from myself and my frustrations. I had been able to lean in to my Heavenly Father and to lay before Him things I hadn’t stopped to talk to Him about for weeks.
And I realized that my thoughts about prayer were all wrong.
Do you tend to think of prayer this way too?
I often think of it as a chore.
It’s on my list of things that I need to get done today. And it feels like a lot of work.
But that is obviously not how it is supposed to be. Listen to the attitude toward prayer in Philippians 4:6 – “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God…” The writer of that wouldn’t try to get out of prayer time.
Prayer is a chance to build a relationship with God, a chance to bring our problems before Him so that we can know His perspective.
James 5:16 says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Why? Because we get to pray to a loving, powerful God!
I act as though prayer is for God.
Prayer sometimes gets treated like a magic formula. If I just ask God for this, then He will make this happen for me. But Matthew 6:8 says, “For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”
So why do we need to pray?
Colossians 4:2 describes prayer this way: “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving..”
And in Matthew 6:5, Jesus says, “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men…”
What do these verses have to do with one another? Well, we need to be vigilant in prayer because we need to be vigilant about our faith. It’s hard to follow Christ in this world, and prayer brings us back to a right place of humble thanksgiving. Without prayer, we tend to think we’ve got this on our own. And, folks, we absolutely do not.
I sometimes think that prayer is a get it done and move on kind of thing.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray without ceasing…” I often misconstrue prayer as something you do before meals or when you read your Bible, when, in fact, prayer should be an integral part of my day. I should want to be bringing praises, requests, and intercession to God all the time. It should be as much a part of my day as breathing.
The Day of Prayer really got me thinking about my prayer life. Honestly, it is a pretty sad state of affairs. Some days I do well, other days I barely mumble out a prayer as I am falling asleep. But that’s not what prayer is supposed to be! Prayer can remind us that all the trappings of this life are nothing compared to the God we should be serving. It’s a chance for us to bring our sadness and our happiness to that very great God.
So why exactly do we struggle to make time for that?