“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
If you listened to the Power of Prayer series on Study With Friends, you may remember Holly talking about how we minimize our prayers. In our humanness we often pray as if in expectance of a human response, or worse, we skip praying for certain things altogether. As Holly pointed out in that lesson, we tend to minimize what we pray for, or couch what we pray for in order to protect ourselves from disappointment or embarrassment. But prayer is the pipeline to our relationship with our God who loves us, and we shouldn’t be doing any of those things.
Last year on a women’s retreat I was praying in a small group, and one of the ladies prayed for God to restore to us the sweetness of praying for the small things. It really struck me and I wrote it in my prayer journal immediately. After the weekend ended, I thought a lot about that prayer. I realized that I didn’t often pray for small things, clearly because I’m so awesome that I don’t need His help in them. Or maybe it’s because I think of myself more than I think of the Lord. Or maybe it’s because I think God doesn’t want to be bothered by such trivial details. This is a big assumption to make, and in hindsight I could see the sadness of such belief. I had put the God of the universe into a box without realizing it. When we look at the example that Christ set for us we see Him taking time for prayer. Mark 1:35 talks about how Jesus would get up early for solitary prayer. Luke 5:16 tells us that Jesus sought “lonely places” for prayer. In the garden of Gethsemane He left the disciples in order to pray alone (Mark 14:32). Jesus was a man of prayer. Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (NIV).” Instead of worrying about something, God tells us to bring it to Him.
The King James translation of 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says to “pray without ceasing”. What does that look like? The first step in figuring out how to develop your prayer life is to first ask God to help you in this area. He can show you what you can change or remove in order to make room for that conversation with Him. No matter what stage of life you’re in, no doubt you have obligations big and small that fill your time. So praying all the live long day seems a bit unrealistic. But what if you prayed every time you thought about it? What if you jotted down prayer requests throughout your day and then prayed over them before bed? I once knew a woman who wrote prayers on index cards and prayed them as she folded laundry. Maybe you would enjoy having a prayer partner, someone to meet with regularly for prayer.
In the front of my prayer journal I have a list of verses about prayer, which I find encouraging and helpful to refer back to as I pray. I find journaling my prayers very useful, as I’m a fidgety person and it gives me something to physically do with myself as I pray.
A week after that women’s retreat I was shopping for pajamas for my sons and found a great sale. As a stay at home mom in a one income family, the sale is always my friend. As I went through the whole rack I found my younger son’s size, but not my older son’s size. I wouldn’t normally pray about something like that, but I went for it. I asked God to show me pajamas in his size that might be hidden from me. I looked again and this time saw a pair that, according to the tab on the hanger, were not his size. But I checked the size on the tag inside the clothing, and they were actually the exact size I needed. The sweetness of that tiny answered prayer filled my heart that day, and again a year later when I reread that entry in my journal. It seems like such a small and simple thing, but it is never small when our God answers our prayers. The message I heard God sending me was that to “pray without ceasing” meant I needed to pray about everything in my life, no matter the size or importance.