Sunday, July 17, 2011

Praying Without Ceasing: A Mother's Lesson

"Pray without ceasing."
I Thessalonians 5:17
As I was preparing our weekly "school" lessons this afternoon, I realized that what I aim to teach my daughter is also what I am hoping to teach myself. The Bible verses I pick out each week for her to memorize and learn are as much for me as they are for her. I want her to hide God's word in her heart so that when she needs encouragement or guidance she has a verse or two to help her out. But I am also memorizing these verses and making application to my own life. This week is no exception.

Each week I pick out a verse from the Bible that features a word beginning with "the letter of the week." We write the scripture on construction paper, and Kate gets to decorate her paper with stickers as we learn our new verse and review previous weeks' memory verses. This week we are studying the letter "P" and its sounds, so I selected I Thessalonians 5:17 for her to learn. Yes, it is super easy to memorize, but to understand? Not so much, especially for young children who have a very literal way of thinking. However, it's also difficult for a thirty-one-year-old woman to comprehend.

When Paul says to pray without ceasing, does he mean we need to pray constantly, without stopping? Do we need to be praying every waking moment? I don't think so. If that were the case, surely we would be like the hypocrites Jesus speaks of in Matthew 6, who babble on and on thinking they will be heard because of their many words.

No, I think to pray continually we must be persistent and regular in our time with God.
We must set aside time each day for prayer, not just praying when we need something.

Consider Christ. He often retreated to a quiet place to pray, taking time away from His followers and those seeking Him, to commune with His Father. Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer, and He wanted His disciples to know that persistence in prayer is essential.
In the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18, the widow kept coming back to the judge, pleading for justice, and because she didn't give up, eventually the judge granted her request. In this story Jesus teaches that we should pray, pray, pray, even when we don't receive an immediate answer from God; we must have faith and keep praying, never giving up.

That is what I think Paul means in I Thessalonians. We need to bring our requests to the Father over and over again--not endlessly repeating what we have already said, but truly believing in our hearts that God has the power, and He will answer our prayers in His time. We must have faithful and sincere hearts.

As a child I said the same prayer every single time we sat around the table to eat. I am not sure where I learned the prayer, but it was rhythmic, easy, and to the point:
"God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. In Jesus' name, Amen."
After a number of years of reciting this same prayer, someone in my family suggested that I stop saying this childish prayer and really pray. Looking back I am embarrassed that this was all I prayed. Subconsciously I knew that my prayer wasn't from the heart, but I didn't really know what to say. I was comfortable with my simple prayer because it was safe: it allowed me to hide any emotions that might come pouring out if I were to really pray.

Today I still struggle to pray persistently and from the heart; but, I am working on it. I know that if I want my daughters to learn how to pray, then they need to see their mother praying. They need to hear my prayers and see my emotions as I pour my heart out to my God. They need to witness me praying even when I'm bone tired because I earnestly believe that God hears and answers the prayers of the faithful. They need to learn how to pray from the heart, not memorize what is easy and comfortable, because God wants us to be a people who glorify Him in all we do.

Dear Father, You are holy and worthy of all praise and glory. I know my prayer life is not as regular and persistent as it should be. Forgive me, and help me, Father, to be the right example for my daughters, especially in my prayer life. Teach me how to pray without ceasing so that I can teach my children. In Jesus' name, Amen.
If you are encouraged by what you read here, would you please consider subscribing to Growing in His Glory via email or following us through an RSS feed of your choice? Thank you and God bless!

This post is linked to Women in the Word Wednesdays.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that we need to pray consistently and regularly. I have a specific prayer request that I have had for a while. It's a daily, sometimes hourly, prayer. I know it will be answered in God's way and in God's time. However, I don't think that a rhythmic, memorized prayer is any less than any other prayer. I think it depends on how it is prayed. If it's just regurgitated without any thought for its meaning, that's one thing. But if it's said with meaning behind the words, I think it's just as effective and purposeful as any other prayer, or even any memorized scripture. Thanks for reminding us not to give up on our prayers, and to say them with meaning. Heather