A thought came to me in one of our daily devotions which I wish to share with you as I did with my congregations. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your prayers and thoughts, for every good thought can be turned in a moment into a prayer.
People sometimes have difficulty with prayer because they associate it with discipline and ritual, something you do at night or in the morning, which, unless it is a lifelong habit, can be difficult to establish and maintain. In fact, prayer is nothing more nor less than a conversation with God who is always present to us. That is often forgotten, and in our guilt at our lack of discipline, we refrain from praying except when we are in need. However, the scriptures encourage continual prayer, an ongoing awareness of the God who is there.
Here are some verses from the New Testament about continual prayer worth considering.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-23
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.
23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers,
2 Timothy 1:3
I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day.
Disciplined persistence in praying for persons and circumstances is essential. And knowing when to ask in faith and leave the matter with God, and when to return and persist, is a sign of spiritual maturity. Also, the knowledge that time and circumstance often must be right for an answer to come should always encourage us when the answer is slow to come. So do not neglect that work.
However, the habit of allowing yourself to direct your thoughts about others into prayers can be very rewarding. During the day, as you think of people, and having offered a prayer for them, allow your thoughts of them to expand to those with whom you associate them, their families, their friends, their neighbours. If someone comes into mind, friend or foe, pray for them in that moment. Create a chain of prayer that way and follow it as you go about the quiet moments of your life.
Here are some insights on continual prayer from the Monastery of Christ in the Desert:
A brother visited an elder who had second sight and pleaded with him, “Pray for me, Father, for I am weak.” In answer the elder said to the brother, “One of the holy ones once said that he who takes oil in his hand to anoint a sick person first partakes of the richness of the oil himself. Likewise, he who prays for a brother, even before that one benefits, receives a portion of benefit himself through his disposition to love. Let us then pray for each other, my brother, so we might be healed; for this the apostle advocates, saying, ‘Pray for one another that you may be healed”’ [James 5:16]. Monastery of Christ in the Desert.
An elder was asked, “What is ‘to pray without ceasing?” [1 Thessalonians 5:17], and he replied, “It is the petition sent up to God from the very foundation of the heart requesting what is appropriate. For it is not only when we stand for prayer that we are praying; true prayer is when you can pray all the time within yourself.
The Monastery of Christ in the Desert.
A secular poster has this advice. Two things to remember in life:
“Take care of your thoughts when you are alone,” and “Take care of your words when you are with people.”
Compare it with:
2 Corinthians 10:5 Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
And Matthew 12:37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Gracious God, in this time of trouble and widespread illness, give me the grace I need to turn my all thoughts about other people into prayers for them. Make me compassionate towards them; help me to consider their circumstances and to refrain from judging them. Let the oil of anointing prayer bless their souls according to their needs and in the process heal me of all my hurts and fears that I may be set free to serve in prayer and intercession for our needy world. In Jesus Holy Name, Amen!
Rev Colin Alston, Presbytery of Dunfermline Prayer Coordinator