Colossians 4:2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” I am still learning much about prayer as taught, illustrated and demonstrated in the Word of God. To this day, 95% of my communion with God is in praise as distinct from prayer. I would, for instance, begin to pray to God for the protection of my mother. Then I would literally slap myself as I think I hear God saying, “So who do you think has been protecting her all these years?” The obvious answer to that question would be the trigger that would instantly transform my communication with God to, “Thank you Lord for protecting my mother…” And this would be the fate of almost all my prayers… They would be short-lived, as they quickly morph into praise.
Then there was something else. I know God is not deaf, so I don’t have to shout. I know he is always attentive to my cry, so I need not repeat myself for Him to hear. Daniel reminds me that God heard his prayer immediately, although the answer was delayed by Satanic forces for 21 days (Daniel 1:12-13). So I can wait, because I know that the Devil cannot indefinitely block His answer.
I know that the inherent nature of praise and thanksgiving and its associated joyfulness, excite the brain much more than does prayer. Prayer inherently includes even a small degree of uncertainty as to the outcome, since God can answer with a yes, no, or silence. So I believe that after I have prayed according to the will of God once, in theory at least, I should switch to praise and thanksgiving for God’s will regarding that for which I have prayed. But I am told to pray without ceasing. Is that a combination of prayer and praise? Perhaps not, because Ephesians 6:18 tells me to always pray with all kinds of prayer and supplication in the Spirit… And Philippians 4:6 also tells me to combine my prayer and petition and thanksgiving, and so present my requests to God. Then I am told in James 5:16 that “the fervent effectual prayer of the righteous avails much” (KJV), or “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (NIV).
The visible results of prayers are sometime perplexing. This is made worse because, although most of us claim to pray according to the will of God, we don’t. I joined, and helped to lead my Church in prayer for the recovery of our Apostle after he was struck with a hemorrhagic stroke. He outlived the 8 hour and the eight day expectations, but died after 13 years, never ever having recovered. Would James still have been murdered if the Church had prayed for him? Would Peter have been murdered, if the Church had not prayed for him? How important is faith to healing? (Luke 7:50) Whose faith is important for healing? (Luke 5:19-20).
As I learn to pray as God would have me pray, I am instructed by the clear, distinct commands, not just to pray, but to devote myself to praying without ceasing. Recently we celebrated Epaphras who was identified by the Apostle Paul as being a hard-working prayer warrior. What I am sure about is that prayer is far more about us, than it is about God. It is most comforting to know that I can take any problem to god in prayer, and that He is willing and able to help me. Romans 8:26 validates that position – “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” In His wisdom God has determined that the activity of prayer with thanksgiving + Bible study + plus encouraging each other + evangelizing the lost = Spiritual growth and maturity.
Remember to visit RBC’s Our Daily Bread Devotional today at www.ODB.org