I want to touch on an aspect of prayer that has intrigued me. When I first read Paul’s parting instructions at the end of his first letter to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, I started wondering, “How can you pray without ceasing? How is that even possible?”
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thes. 5:17)
Initially, I was thinking about it from the stand point of an individual being required to pray without ceasing. However, these were instructions being given to the Body of Christ corporate in Thessalonica. I felt a sense of relief. I was somewhat perplexed as I know that God doesn’t give us instructions that cannot be accomplished. Having addressed the feasibility issue, I began to think about the obedience issue. How many churches are obeying this instruction to “pray without ceasing”? I know at my own church attempts have been made to establish a prayer chain by assigning specific persons to pray during prescribed hours so that prayer is taking place 24/7. It lasts for a while but then fizzles out due to lack of commitment. I can well understand Jesus’ frustration with the disciples who accompanied Him to the Garden of Gethsemane.
Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mt. 26:40-41)
This is insightful! Unfortunately, this is the same problem with the Body of Christ today. Instead of following Christ’s example of putting prayer first above everything else, we are at ease in Zion. Sleeping when we should be praying. Allowing the enemy to have his way while we sleep. And then getting all fired up in prayer when the damage has already been done. Prevention is always better than cure! Much less costly and definitely much less painful. I asked the Lord, “Why is it such an uphill task to get Christians to commit to prayer? When you call a prayer meeting very few are in attendance but call a healing and deliverance meeting or a prophetic meeting and there is standing room only.” The Lord showed me several reasons.
1. We have lost our first love. Remember, prayer is simply talking to God about what is on your heart. Many of us no longer have the love affair with God that we had when we were first born again. Not because God has changed but because we have not been committed to keeping our side of the relationship going. Every relationship requires a commitment of time and energy. It requires purposeful, diligent effort to maintain intimacy because there are so many things vying for our attention that we have to be constantly reminding ourselves to remain focused on the thing or person that is most important.
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. (Mk. 12:30)
Let the Body of Christ heed the words that were spoken by the Lord to the church in Ephesus:
Nevertheless I have this against you, that have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place–unless you repent. (Rev. 2:4-5)
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb. 10:31)
2. We are not in tune with God’s heart. This is aligned to reason #1. Prayer is a love response to the burdens of others. If you have an intimate relationship with someone you become aware of the things that are dear to their heart. The Lord’s second commandment says you are to love your neighbour as yourself (Mk. 12:31). Not only have we lost our first love, we have lost love for others. Jesus had compassion for the lost and dying. If we were in tune with God’s heart we would be crying and groaning and interceding for a lost and dying world. Okay, maybe praying for the world is stretching our hearts a bit too far. But truth be told, many of us don’t even have a heart to pray for those who are hurting right around us.
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Gal. 6:10)
praying with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints. (Eph. 6:18)
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. (Jas. 5:16, emphasis mine)
3. We have not allowed the Word of God to renew our minds. Romans 12:2 says we are not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The Lord says it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35b). The world says it is better to receive than to give. That is why the healing and deliverance as well as the prophetic meetings are full. In those meetings we come to get something from the Lord. On the other hand, the prayer meeting is requiring that we expend ourselves to empower God’s action on earth. If we are totally honest with ourselves, we would have to admit that we are a lazy people. Prayer requires work and sacrifice and many of us have not signed on for that as part of our Christian walk.
4. We lack faith. If we really believed in the power of prayer and that God hears us when we pray why would we not pray? Many times our prayers are hindered for lack of faith and then we are disappointed when we do not see the outcome that we desired. We then get turned off prayer. It’s a vicious cycle.
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Heb. 1:6)
Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. (Mk. 11:24)
Many of us, as soon as we have prayed about a matter, immediately cancel what we have prayed by confessing that we are worrying about the same thing. We continue to talk about the issue as though it’s still a matter for prayer although we have already asked the Lord to intervene on our behalf.
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (Jas. 2:26)
5. We lack knowledge. If we knew and understood that God has given us authority in the earth and our prayers are the keys that unlock God’s hand to act on our behalf with heaven’s power on earth, why wouldn’t we pray? If we realized that it is our lack of prayer that is hindering the healing of our nations, why wouldn’t we pray? The Body of Christ has been given the mandate to disciple nations; this will not be accomplished without prayer.
And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Mt. 16:19, emphasis mine)
If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chron. 7:14, emphasis mine)
Now that we are an enlightened people, let us not be weary in well doing. Now that we have been empowered with knowledge, let us not reject it and open ourselves to the consequences.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me: Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. (Hos. 4:6)
John Wesley said, “Without God man cannot and without man God will not.” What happens on earth depends on man. Prayer is earthly licence for heavenly interference. Prayer is not an option it is a necessity.
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. (Rom. 8:19)
Child of God, not only is creation eagerly waiting for your prayers but God is eagerly waiting for his children to allow His will to be activated in the earth (Mt. 6:10). Are you willing to say, “Here I am Lord” and be counted among the remnant that will hear and obey?
Men ought always to pray and not to lose heart (Lk. 18:1).