God designed prayer to energize, not drain, us. When we make prayer a priority, we reap a whole host of benefits like comfort, guidance, and confidence. As believers, prayer is our most profitable activity.
Prayer is one of the most important activities in our lives because we’re actually talking to the sovereign God of the universe who has all power and knowledge. He understands how we feel, knows what we think, and has the power to intervene in every area of life. Yet despite the Lord’s willingness to listen and answer our requests, we are not always faithful in prayer. When times are good, we may forget to pray. Or maybe we doubt that God will answer. But the biggest hindrance to prayer is sin. If we’re unwilling to acknowledge our sins and ask for the Lord’s forgiveness, we’ll have no desire to talk to a holy God.
When the apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica who were suffering under Roman domination, he told them, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). In other words, prayer should be a priority in our daily lives.
What does it mean to pray without ceasing? Paul was not saying that we should continually mumble prayers every minute of the day. “Without ceasing” means a continuous recurrence. Prayer isn’t constant, but it recurs frequently throughout the day. Unceasing prayer is a way of life, not an occasional occurrence prompted by trouble or a quick addition at the end of the day. God wants us to focus our attention on Him consistently. For instance, in the morning we could ask the Lord for guidance, strength, and wisdom for the day ahead. Then as our children go off to school, we might pray for the Lord’s protection. Or perhaps on the way to work, we talk to Him about the challenges we’ll face and thank Him for a safe trip. Throughout the rest of the day, we make requests, seek His direction, and give Him thanks until we finally climb back into bed.
God is ready and willing to listen and answer our prayers. We can’t say anything to the Lord that He doesn’t already know. He’s not sitting in heaven being secretive about His will for our lives or reluctant to answer our prayers. God proved His love for us by giving His Son as a sacrifice for our salvation, and He continues to demonstrate His love by being interested in every facet of our lives. In Luke 18:1-7, Jesus taught a parable about a judge and a persistent widow, which reminds us that God always hears our prayers and provides for our needs. If we are His children, we don’t have to beg Him to listen to us, nor do we need to feel unworthy. We don’t deserve His mercy, grace, and love, but He freely gives it because of our relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.
There is a difference between true and false prayer. True prayer requires a relationship with God. However, those who have rejected Jesus have no basis for approaching the Lord in prayer because access to Him is only possible through His Son (John 14:6). Therefore, God does not answer their false prayers. No one can bypass Christ and expect that the Lord will grant their requests. However, there is one prayer He always answers. When someone is willing to humble himself, confess his sins, and receive Jesus as his personal Savior, the Lord will forgive him and welcome him into the family of God.
False prayer is all about self and is based on what we think we deserve. Many times it’s a monologue focused on what we want from God. But true prayer comes from a sense of humility, realizing that we are accepted on the basis of the Lord’s mercy, not by our conduct. It’s a dialogue with God because we are not just interested in giving Him our list of requests, but we want to hear from Him.
True prayer is a way to grow in our relationship with the Lord. All relationships require two-way communication. Instead of just speaking our prayer requests, we must also listen to the Lord. Since His Word is the primary way He speaks to us, our prayer times should include Bible reading. When the Lord has an answer for us from His Word, it’s amazing how He can take us to the exact Scripture passages we desperately need. However, if we pray yet fail to listen, we’ll miss the blessing of hearing from Him and will be no better off than before.