Pray Continually. – 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NIV)
I’ll be honest. I don’t have the world’s greatest prayer life. And I’ll bet you don’t either. We might talk about how important prayer is, how we should start and end the day with prayer, and even tell people that we’ll pray for them when they need it. But we all fall short of seeing these things through. Life gets in the way. We forget to pray.
But these two words give us what, in my humble opinion, is one of the best nuggets of wisdom found in the Bible.
Think about it.
No, really. Think about it.
Don’t pray sometimes. Don’t just pray in the morning or at night. Don’t just pray before meals. Don’t just pray at church or Bible study.
Treat prayer like a running conversation with God. You don’t always need to be sitting or kneeling, hands folded, and head bowed. You don’t need to be extravagant with your prayer, using lofty words to make yourself sound smart and sincere. You just need to have a simple conversation with God. Tell Him what’s on your mind at that moment.
Worried about a big meeting at work? Ask for guidance, thoughtfulness, and discernment.
Pass a car accident on the road? Pray that God watch over all involved.
A friend tells you about a death in their family? Pray for their family as they go through the grieving process.
Get a promotion or new job? Say a prayer of thanksgiving.
Hear about another war or attack in the Middle East? Pray for safety of those involved; civilians, military, and governments.
These are just a few times when a quick, silent prayer can be made. It doesn’t need to be said out loud. It doesn’t need to be long and drawn out. It can just be a simple, silent prayer you say in your head. Just re-open the conversation with God and say a few words. He knows what’s on your mind, so you don’t have to concoct anything long or drawn out.
One of my favorite songs by Steven Curtis Chapman is Let Us Pray. The chorus of this song aligns perfectly with praying continually:Let us pray, let us pray, everywhere in every way,
Every moment of the day, it is the right time.
For the Father above, He is listening with love,
And He wants to answer us, so let us pray.
Pray with Purpose
A while back, my cousin and his wife came to visit with my wife and I for the weekend. Before our first meal together, we said the common table prayer. You know the one: “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let Thy gifts to us be blessed. Amen”. After the prayer, as we started to eat, my cousin asked if that was our normal mealtime prayer. I said yes. That’s when he gave me one of the best ideas about prayer that anyone has ever given me.
He mentioned that he and his wife have started using their mealtime prayer for more specific prayers. They take turns back and forth, using the prayer to pray for more specific items — needs of the day, current events, family concerns, etc. I loved the idea.
Shortly after, I realized that my saying the common table prayer had become monotonous and, quite frankly, meaningless for me. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a fine prayer. But I had said it so many times that it no longer seemed to hold any sort of meaning for me. I just said it to say it. So I talked it over with my wife, and we have since decided to adopt my cousin’s idea and use our mealtime prayer for more specific items. No two prayers are the same any more from day to day. And I like it. It helps us focus on the prayers more, and helps bring out things that we normally fail to pray for.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to bash the common table prayer or anything. Like I said, it’s a fine prayer. And hey, if you’re with a lot of people or with your larger family, it’s something everyone is familiar with and knows. That’s why it’s the “common” table prayer.
Putting it Into Practice
Let me end with two challenges for you.
First, take the advice of Paul in 1 Thessalonians: Pray continually. Keep an open line of communication with God, and pray throughout the day when you see fit.
Second, put aside the common table prayer for a bit, and use your mealtime prayer to pray for more specific things. And don’t always make it about stuff you need. Include items of thanksgiving, requests for guidance, or current events going on in the world.
God is listening. Start the conversation.