I walked into my kitchen on Sunday night and looked at the shelf where I keep the coffee mugs. My fiancée, Ali, has begun to move things into the house so that the transition of her moving in once we’re married will be smooth. Between the two of us, we own roughly 483 coffee mugs for some reason. One mug, in particular, caught my eye. My mom got me this one for Christmas a couple of years ago, and I’ve drunk out of it many times, but for some reason, it was like I was reading the words on it for the first time. It says, “Prayer changes everything.” I was stopped in my tracks for a few moments pondering those words. How had I never noticed that before? I knew that it was no accident that the Holy Spirit drew my eyes to that phrase.
Do we believe that prayer changes everything? The correct answer is yes but do we genuinely believe that deep down? I think that the best way to figure that out is to examine our own prayer life. I’ve heard it said, “The quickest way to humble a Christian is to ask them about their prayer life.” I will readily admit that my prayer life isn’t where it should be. I don’t know if we can ever have a perfect prayer life, but that is no excuse not to give it all that we have.
On the other side of that coffee mug is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” There is a lot to unpack in those three verses. I don’t want to get bogged down in an exegetical dissertation, but I just want to focus on the “pray without ceasing” part.
Have you ever prayed without ceasing? How does that even look? I went to a conference when I was a freshman in college, and the speaker there used this verse and challenged all of us to try our best to “pray without ceasing.” I was struggling with living out the Christian life at this point and wanted to grab onto anything that I could to try to rectify that so I was all in on this challenge. The speaker said that if there is any moment that you’re alone, pray.
The college that I initially went to placed the dorms annoyingly far away from the academic buildings, which meant that I had several long walks to and from class each day. I usually would listen to music when I walked to class, but now I was replacing it with prayer. I also started praying when I was showering, using the restroom, doing nothing in my room, walking to and from the dining hall, and virtually any other time that I was alone. The results were life-changing. It reshaped how I viewed God. I had viewed Him mostly as the all-powerful king of the world, which He is, but that was being morphed into me seeing Him as a friend. Being in near constant communion with the Almighty brought me closer to Him than I had ever been. It took our relationship to a deepness that I had yet to experience.
I don’t believe that I am the only one to experience that. When I think of all my spiritual heroes that I have had throughout my life, they typically have something in common. They have a living and active prayer life. There is no excuse for a Christian not to have a vibrant prayer life. The only thing that is holding us back is us simply not doing it. God wants us to be continually going to Him in prayer. As 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” It is God’s will that we pray without ceasing. I have learned over the years that if it’s God’s will, then we should try to be in tune with it. If our perfect Father is offering a deeper relationship with Him, why would we ever reject Him?
Our main go-to excuse is that we don’t have enough time to pray. Listen to what Martin Luther has to say on the subject. First, imagine how busy Luther was at the height of the Reformation, he was changing the church and the world. Luther had gained a reputation for his devotion to prayer. He would spend the first 4 hours of his day doing nothing but praying. Let that one sink in for a minute. How many days would we have to add together to get to 4 hours of prayer? Someone came up to him one day and asked him, “With all that you have going on, how can you find that much time to pray?” That is a logical question considering that Luther would devote about a fourth of his day to his morning prayer. It’s Luther’s response that will always stop me in my tracks. He looked at his inquirer and responded, “With all that I have going on, how can I not find that time to pray?” I know this story by heart, and even still, it moves me. Are you busier than someone who reshaped and changed Christianity? I’m going to venture that you are not. Am I saying that we all need to spend our first 4 hours of the day praying? No, although I’m not saying that you can’t. My big takeaway from that story is that we need to prioritize prayer.
Ali is the most important person in my life. Because of that, we spend a significant time talking to each other every day. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have nearly as close or as strong of a relationship as we do. We take the time to talk about our day and how it’s going. We also like to say how much we love and appreciate each other. That is the type of communication that God desires. He genuinely cares about you and wants to hear everything about your day. He wants us to be intimate with Him and spend time telling Him how much we love and appreciate Him.
God also wants us to ask Him for our desires. Now, there is a disclaimer in scripture that tells us that asking with the wrong motives will lead to God not fulfilling those requests (James 4:3). However, there are plenty of encouraging verses telling us that God will answer those prayers. Look at what Jesus tells us in Luke 11:9, “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened for you.” Matthew 21:22 reads, “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive if you have faith.” The apostle John writes, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him”(1 John 5:14-15). God will answer your prayers if you are asking with the right motives.
Why do we have a God that is so willing to fulfill our requests? Daniel answers that question for us, “We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy” (Daniel 9:18). God wants to pour out His blessings on us because He is a kind and loving father. We should continually be going to Him with a pure heart and asking for the things we need because He is the God who provides.
My challenge to you is to spend this week praying without ceasing. Any moment that you get alone spend time with your creator. Turn off the radio as your driving to and from work, pray to Him while you’re brushing your teeth, talk to your savior while your cooking dinner, etc. Also, set aside some time to pray every morning. There are no magic words that you need to say, nor is there a script that you have to follow. Tell God what is on your heart. Tell Him how you’re honestly feeling. Don’t be afraid to ask Him for your desires. He wants to bless and provide for you because He is merciful. He is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20). God is inviting you to a deeper and richer relationship with Him. Will you accept that offer? The choice is yours.