“REJOICE ALWAYS, PRAY WITHOUT CEASING, GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES; FOR THIS IS THE WILL OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS FOR YOU.” 1 THESSALONIANS 5:16
Thank you so much for joining us in this four-week study of God's Word! Last week, we reflected on trusting God's character in every season of life. He is unchanging; He is faithful; He is all-knowing; He is sovereign. Regardless of our situation, we can always have faith and take comfort in the fact that His character will never fail us.
Feel free to refresh your memory on last week's study!
In Part 2, we are focusing on perhaps one of the most important aspects of our walk with the Father: prayer. As we reflect on what God calls us to do in all circumstances, we pray that you, too, find the love, hope, and encouragement that only Christ can provide.
In all Circumstances: Pray
"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:12-13
In all circumstances, God calls us to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer is one of the most intimate and important ways for us to show our faith in the Lord. Prayer is key to a relationship with God. We MUST talk to Him. Just as we can't know our neighbors without talking to them, we must talk to our Father in order to truly know Him.
What is prayer?
Prayer is an intentional, personal communion with the Lord. It is a desire to be in His presence. When you pray, you are making a conscious decision to talk to God and share your thoughts with Him, even though He already knows your every thought before you speak. It is an act of faith and worship in it's most simple, yet powerful form.
God promises to answer our prayers according to His will. For those servants of the Lord who truly humble themselves in the act of prayer, He will listen and answer. "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks received, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened." (Matthew 7:7-8) In His infinite wisdom, the Lord knows what we need, what we desire, and truly what is best for us.
How should we pray?
"Pray then like this:
'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.'"
When the apostles asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He gave them this model prayer. 'The Lord's Prayer,' as we refer to it. This is a simple but perfect foundation for us when we do not know how to pray: glorify the Father; acknowledge His will in our lives; ask that God provide for His children; confess and ask for forgiveness of our sins; trust Him to protect us from sin. The Lord's Prayer is a beautiful model of prayer, but God never intended for this to be the only way He wants us to talk to Him.
There are limitless possibilities when it comes to how we should pray. That is one of the many gifts Jesus gave us through His sacrifice! The veil was torn with the fulfillment of the cross, allowing God's people to be in direct contact with His presence. This means we can pray anywhere at anytime, as well. While in the Old Testament people prayed to God at particular places and times, Jesus said, "But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him." John 4:23
Prayer can last just a few seconds in those brief windows of time you find throughout the day, and it can last for hours. This is how we can pray without ceasing in all circumstances. However, it is still important to set aside a specific time and place for prayer in addition to our spontaneous chats with God. This can look different for every person, but Jesus is clear that He wants dedicated, consistent time between you and God alone (Matthew 6:6). While He encourages believers to pray together and come together as the Church, He desires to have a consistent, intentional conversation and relationship with you.
Talking with God
"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Hebrews 4:12
Our Father desires a personal relationship with us. Praying to Him in all circumstances expresses our faith in a sovereign Father who loves us unconditionally. Prayer may be one of the most intimate forms of worship, so of course it is key to that relationship with Him.
We are not without help in prayer. The Holy Spirit knows both our thoughts and the thoughts of God. The Holy Spirit helps us find the words to pray when we can't find the words ourselves.
"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." Romans 8:26-27
Prayer is not a one-way conversation.
The most direct way He speaks to us is through Scripture. "All Scripture is breathed out by God..." (2 Timothy 3:16). Therefore, when we talk to God, perhaps we can listen first. By allowing His active and living words to speak to us first, the Spirit can mold our hearts as we respond to Him in prayer. Even if we are in a valley and having trouble feeling God's presence, we can be sure He speaks to us through His Word and He hears our prayers through the Spirit.
God is Listening
"...if my people who are called by my name 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 Chronicles 7:14
There is no prayer too small for the Lord. He hears every word of praise, worry, doubt, repentance, and more. Our relationship with the Lord can give us the confidence to ask anything of Him in prayer. Praying for courage before a big business presentation may seem like it's not worth God's time compared to praying to something like world peace, but God knows our hearts and hears every plea just the same: "And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us." 1 John 5:14
Even when God seems to be answering our prayers with "Not yet," we know that He does still hear us. Jesus knew we would be impatient and grow weary in prayer, especially if we pray for so long, perhaps years, without an answer. He urges us to remain steadfast and faithful to God, trusting that He hears us and will answer our prayers according to His will.
Let us never suppose God would ask us to pray, refuse to hear us or give us what would be hurtful. We have a good, good Father who loves us unconditionally. Our God knows what is best for us.
"Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" Matthew 7:9-11
God desires a personal, intentional communion with us through prayer. That might look short prayers throughout the day and a dedicated prayer time set aside just to talk to God, or hours spent in worship through prayer. Regardless, our Father hears us and will answer. Our prayers will reach Him in all circumstances.
How have I taken time to talk to God in prayer, and how has He shown me that He is listening?