Whatever exercises we practice in the Christian life, they are in vain if done without the reading of Scripture and prayer. Yet sadly, most Christians go through life without an active prayer life. They worship, they go on mission trips, they serve in the church but many seldom pray. Donald Whitney in his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, tells about a survey done in the 1980s. “More than seventeen thousand members of a major evangelical denomination were surveyed about their prayer habits while attending seminars on prayer for spiritual awakening. Because they attended this kind of seminar, we can assume these people are above average in their interest in prayer. And yet, the surveys revealed that they pray an average of less than five minutes each day. There were two thousand pastors and wives at these same seminars. By their own admission, they pray less than seven minutes a day.”
On the other hand, can we really pray continually as we commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Yes, we can do this because Scripture is not speaking here of prayer as an activity. This is important for us to understand. “Pray continually” speaks of relationship. My friend, Jennifer K. Dean in her book, Heart’s Cry, explains that God is calling us to live a praying life versus a prayer life. She calls this lifestyle “living behind the veil in the presence of God throughout our days, living in Christ and Christ living through us. Prayer is in this sense living in an unbroken awareness of the presence of God as we move through our day.” It means you may be concentrating on another activity at the moment, but at the same time, you are aware of God’s presence and the need to return your attention to Him. In other words, you never really stop talking with God; you just have interruptions in your conversation. Praying continually is chatting off and on all day long as we take care of our responsibilities and enjoy the activities we are involved in as though God is our companion, traveling right along with us. The thing is – He is. We simply fail to acknowledge it.
Living a praying life does not mean, however, that we never set aside a particular time for devoted prayer. We are told in Colossians 4:2, we are to devote ourselves to prayer. When we devote ourselves to something, we make it a priority. God wants us to live with a continual awareness of His presence, communing and communicating with Him while doing life as well as to have focused dedicated times of prayer. His expectation for us to pray flows from His love for us, not from a heart to put us to task. To illustrate, when I travel, my husband expects me to call him when I arrive at my destination. I expect the same from him. We don’t put this expectation on one another as a means of control or distrust. The one traveling communicates to put the other’s mind at ease by informing them they are safe. Besides, Praise the Lord, we are still after all these years eager to hear one another’s voice when we are separated by distance. My point here is just as our expectation to phone one another flows from our love, God’s expectation for us to pray is also born out of love. When we set aside special time alone with God where our attention is all on Him, we are in a place of intimacy where God can reveal to us His most intimate secrets.
So how is your prayer life? Does it seem lifeless or alive? Do you receive direct answers to your prayers? Are you experiencing the reality of God’s continual presence in your life?
To develop a praying life lifestyle combined with special times of dedicated prayer starts with a decision to do so. God will help you once you commit to it. I would also highly recommend you read Heart’s Cry: Principles of Prayer and Live a Praying Life, both by Jennifer Kennedy Dean. Regardless where you currently are in your walk with God, I truly believe these books will set you on course for a deepened intimacy with God and a more powerful, answered prayer life.
To end this post, I want to share one exercise I have found helpful to developing a praying life relationship with our Father. Spend 5 to 10 minutes in prayer each morning upon awakening before your thoughts become clouded with the day’s plans. Thank Him for your life and day and ask Him to be Lord over it. Focus your thoughts on Him and His love, sovereignty and majesty. This should help you to remember He is with you from the time your feet hit the floor and as you go through your busy day.
How about you? I know we have many readers who walk closely with God. Do you have an exercise you could share that has helped you to live a praying life or increased your intimacy with God?