The following verses are short, but they provide ample material for deep reflection on prayer:
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:16b).
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thess. 5:16-18).
Two simple points arise from these verses: 1) Prayer is powerful. 2) Therefore, we should pray all the time.
Prayer is an essential ingredient in the Christian life. It is fundamental to the proper perspective. Prayer causes us to realize our dependence upon God. Life is not something we can tackle completely on our own and expect to be successful. We are limited. When we pray, we pray as limited beings to the One who has no limit.
Prayer is powerful when offered in the face of life-threatening or life-changing times (terminal illness, career decisions, etc.), but I think it’s true power comes when it is something more than an emergency call. It is in the daily practice where it’s true power can be realized. Just as my computer battery needs to be charged, humans need to connect with the Power Source regularly and often.
It has been said that prayer is a barometer for the Christian life. I think that this is a pretty accurate statement. I can usually tell the difference when I am praying as I should. When praying regularly, if I go for a period of time without it, I miss it. I can actually feel something lacking. So often in my life, I have seen prayer as something that I have to do, an item to check for Christian living. This attitude rarely reveals the true power in prayer and prayer is not really missed when it is absent — at least, it’s not for me.
Praying without ceasing reveals an active awareness of God. Most of us could give the right answers about God when asked. Yes, he exists. Yes, he is powerful. Yes, he has blessed me. But, if we only think those things when prompted, we are not actively pursuing him. If we’re not continually uttering praise and thanksgiving to God in our daily experiences, then what is in our hearts and minds? Is our mind consumed with work, bills, the stock market, sports or any number of other things? Or, are we continually thinking about the goodness of God and the difference that has made in our lives?
In part, prayer reveals our heart. That’s why it’s such a scary and difficult thing. To be quite honest, I’ve struggled with prayer over the years. I think most of us have. There have been times where I’ve been strong in prayer and times when I have been weak. What my struggles with prayer reveal are my struggles with faith in general and living the Christian life. Christianity is about more than just having the “right answers.” It is about lives that are transformed by a commitment to God, which creates a different way of thinking. My failure to be constant in prayer reveals a lack of constancy in the proper mindset. Prayer keeps me mindful of God and empowers me to live the Christian life.