Do we fully appreciate how important prayer is in our relationship with God, with each other and for our own spiritual, mental and emotional well-being? The apostle Paul, in the closing portion of his first letter to the church in Thessalonica, told them to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Pray without ceasing! This does not imply that we neglect everything else in our lives, lock ourselves in our homes and do nothing but constantly pray. What Paul meant is that we should be constantly aware that everything is from God and we are fully dependent on Him for everything in our lives.
And in James 5:16 we are told, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” A study into the meaning of the word translated “effective” reveals it is a prayer that is decisive, earnest, urgent, having adequate power or force to produce an intended outcome.
When we pray, are we praying for a specific outcome and if that does not happen, do we assume God is not listening, or our prayer is still not answered? Could it be that our prayer was answered but we cannot see it, because it is not the outcome we wanted or were expecting?
In Acts 12, Herod had Peter thrown in prison behind a double set of gates, guarded by double sentinels and chained between two soldiers, eliminating any hope of escape, “but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church” (Acts 12:15). The King James Version says, “but prayer was made without ceasing.”
After an angel of the Lord came and rescued Peter, he went to the house of Mary, where many were gathered together praying. Peter knocked at the door and a young servant girl named Rhoda recognized his voice and ran to tell the others in the house that Peter was released, yet they did not believe her (Acts 12:12-16).
What were they actually praying for? Did they have a preconceived outcome in mind? What were they expecting?
In 1 John 5:14, it says, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (emphasis added throughout). We also read in 1 John 3:22, “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”
Jesus taught us to pray “Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10) and even He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, “not as I will, but as You will” and “Your will be done” (Matthew 26:39, 42).
Key principles we must always remember as it pertains to our prayer life is that we must ask according to the will of, and be obedient to, the will of God.
The Council of Elders concluded our December meetings earlier today. We have been praying constantly for God’s will and direction in all of the work we have completed and the tasks that remain ahead of us. We have seen God answer those prayers and thank Him for doing so. Please continue to “pray without ceasing”!