“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
The first time I ever read that passage, I could not believe what I was reading. In my mind, I pictured someone kneeling for 24 hours a day. “That’s impossible”, I said to myself and dismissed it. Later, I heard a pastor preach a sermon on this passage and explain that believers are meant to be in a constant state of prayer. We are supposed to keep our line of communication with God open at all times. We accomplish this by immediately confessing any known sin and asking for God’s forgiveness. Then, whenever we need to shoot up a request, God will hear us. That seemed a lot more possible.
With that explanation, I took the passage literally. The moment I open my eyes in the morning, I begin to thank God for the rest and protection He gave me through the night. When my head hits the pillow at night, my last waking moments are spent in prayer. Whenever I hear something on the news like a tragedy, a missing child or a soldier killed in war, I pray for the family. I pray for the posts on my Facebook account. When I think about a friend or family member during the day, I pray for them. Prayer has become such a habit for me, that I catch myself praying for people in the movie that I am watching!
You might be thinking that such constant prayer sounds like a good habit, and it is a good habit in many ways. When you pray in this manner, you spend a lot of time in prayer and communication with God becomes easy and conversational. Prayer becomes something of an instant reflex and a natural response to what is happening in the world around us. However, there is a downside to this type of prayer if it makes up the bulk of your prayer time. Such short and constant prayers can leave you experiencing a strange and almost thirsty feeling. To quench this thirst, you need to spend more extensive time in prayer with God. Find a quiet place where you can get alone with God and will be uninterrupted. Stay there as long as you are able, and pray to your Heavenly Father. You will come away with such a feeling of refreshment that this type of prayer may soon become a habit as well.
So, does God answer my “habit” prayers? He sure does! However, I have seen amazing results from deeper and more extensive times of prayer with God as well. Whenever I become discouraged in ministry, I know that it is time for me to take a break and spend some serious time alone with God. After these times of prayer, amazingly it seems people volunteer, lessons go really well, and children accept Jesus as their Savior and/or grow as His disciples. The long and short of it–all kinds of prayer should be a habit.
What are you doing in your life and in your ministry to make prayer a habit? In terms of prayer, what does and does not work for you?