ISSUE: 2020, Volume 17, Issue 3
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The exhortation of 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 verse 17 to ‘pray without ceasing’ is particularly pertinent in times of difficulty, when we feel overwhelmed by the circumstances of life. Thank God for this precious recourse that we have, as believers, and the confidence we gain from knowing that ‘in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving’ we are exhorted to ‘let your requests be made known unto God’, Phil. 4. 6. In this article we are going to consider an acrostic of the word prayer to help us appreciate, in some measure at least, what prayer can do.
We get so focused on ourselves and so taken up with life's cares and concerns that, at times, we need to step back and gain God's perspective on life. The perfect example of prayer is seen in the life of Christ, particularly in Luke’s Gospel. In Luke chapter 6, we have a scene of opposition where the Pharisees ‘were filled with madness’, v. 11, and it was ‘in those days’, v.12, that He ‘went out into a mountain to pray’. Going up a mountain makes the world, and all its opposition, problems and difficulties, appear on a different scale altogether. The Psalmist, in Psalm 73, was feeling overwhelmed until He ‘went into the sanctuary of God’, v. 17, and appreciated God's viewpoint. The things of time that consume our thoughts seem so trivial when we view them in the light of eternity. Ascending, spiritually, into the sanctuary helps us to face earth's insurmountable problems, for we have an ‘eternal God’ who is our refuge, Deut. 33. 27.
Overwhelming problems, painful experiences, trials and temptations are beneficial to us if we allow them to drive us to our knees in a fresh acknowledgement of our weakness, insignificance and complete dependence on God. So often we become self-reliant and forget that we are utterly dependent on Him for all things – even our breath is in His hands, Dan. 5. 23!
The very idea of praying is often seen as folly in the eyes of the world because it admits our weakness and expresses our dependence on another to help. In times of crisis, when a person feels so helpless, they will, at times or as a last resort, bring God into the equation, although usually it is in anger at His seeming distance and disinterest. Thankfully, God is our first resort. He is a ‘refuge and strength’ in time of trouble, Ps. 46. 1. This is the one who is the Creator and sustainer of this universe, with infinite resources at His disposal. It is good to get a fresh appreciation that the One we trust is indeed ‘the living God’, 1 Tim. 4. 10. There is no one like Him, Exod. 15. 11-18.
The attitude of prayer should not be one of a lifeless ritual but of a living relationship resulting in prayers full of meaning. Our desires, concerns, hopes and fears can all be poured out to Him in the conscious knowledge that we will never be misunderstood, and we will never be dismissed as unimportant. We are to pray ‘always [at all times] with all [kinds of] prayer and supplication [entreaty] in the Spirit’, Eph. 6. 18. There should be an earnest attitude as we approach the throne of God with our innermost desires.
If we should pray with meaning we should also pray with feeling. How good to know we can turn to One who knows our deepest fears and our feelings and, more importantly, He cares about them because He cares about us! ‘Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you’, 1 Pet. 5. 7.
The final, and perhaps hardest point is to learn to leave things with Him. We are exhorted to ‘be careful [anxious] for nothing’, Phil. 4. 6. As has been well said, we should cast our cares upon Him and try not to take them back again! Trust Him, for He is in control and is working all things together to bring about His eternal purpose. The response to prayer might not be what we expect it to be, and it might not come when we want it to, but we can be sure it will be for our eternal benefit and blessing. ‘O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever’, Ps. 136. 1.