Pray without ceasing

The Standard May 13, 2021

Each year, the first Thursday in May is set aside as our National Day of Prayer. Jesus modeled how we should pray and gave some instruction in this spiritual discipline.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35) “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16) “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’” (Matthew 6:5-13)

In The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering our Hidden Life in God, Christian philosopher Dallas Willard paraphrased the Lord’s Prayer. “Dear Father always near us, may your name be treasured and loved, may your rule be completed in us—may your will be done here on earth in just the way it is done in heaven. Give us today the things we need today, and forgive us our sins and impositions on you as we are forgiving all who in any way offended us. Please don’t put us through trials, but deliver us from everything bad. Because you are the one in charge, and you have all the power, and the glory too is all yours – forever – which is just the way we want it!”

Shortly before his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus cried out to the Father in what is often called his High Priestly Prayer. Despite knowing of his impending suffering, Jesus prayed for himself only in reference to bringing glory to the Father. Remarkably, his prayer focused on others rather than on the agony he was facing.  “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:13-23)

By starting each day with prayer and continuing it throughout the day, we have communion with God. It can be natural and easy, not limited to any specific place or time. There also is benefit in setting aside a certain time alone for prayer and meditation. One of many prayer models is A.C.T.S., with the outline of focusing on adoration then confession, thanksgiving and supplication. We might find encouragement from keeping a prayer journal, which allows the opportunity to record how God has been so faithful. Let us “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

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