How is your prayer life? How much time do you spend face to face with the Father? If you are anything like me, it can be a struggle to pray for any real length of time. I get to praying, and before I know it, I’m four thoughts away and staring off into space. It happens. Then I find myself apologizing to God and trying to get back on track, only to find myself thinking of something else within a few minutes. The struggles of an overactive imagination
I think this is why Paul says to the Thessalonians, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV). The phrase pray without ceasing has always stuck out to me. I always thought this meant to pray all day every day. To pray long winded, heady prayers, like the prayer warriors that I know and love. I just do not have that capability. I am a man of……what’s that over there?!
The way I found that works best for me and my short attention span, is to pray in short spurts all throughout the day. I cannot pray more than 10 minutes without my mind wandering. (it’s a wonder I can sit in front a computer screen and write this long). I know there are those who can pray for hours at a time. I am not one of them. I have figured out that praying for 5-10 minutes 10 to 15 times a day adds up to hours of prayer, and meets the “pray without ceasing command.” If your heart is always tuned to the kingdom of heaven and our Father, then we are more in tune with his will and his love for us. It becomes a relationship like it was always meant to be.
Think about it. If you had a best friend, (and God is supposed to be our friend), would you ignore him most of the time and only pray when you need something? I’ve had friends like those, no thank you. They only call when they want something. True friendship is built over time. It is face to face time talking about anything and everything. So, whether you are a prayer warrior who can talk to God for hours at a time, or like me, and do it in short bursts; you are building a relationship with the God of the universe. Walking with him in the cool of the day, like Adam and Eve, so to speak.
Under the old law, people would have to travel from near and far just to stand outside the temple and pray. You were not allowed inside the main chamber. It was instant death. Only the priest could enter, and only once a year, AND only if he had a bucket of blood. In fact, they were so scared of going in there, that they would tie a bell and a rope around the priest. If a priest messed up it could spell death. If the bell stopped ringing, they would pull his dead body out by the rope. Can you image that?
When Jesus died, the veil (or curtain), that separated the holy room from the holy of holies, was torn in two. In fact, Jesus is with us, even at this very moment. He gave us the Holy Spirit who dwells in our midst. He is right here. You don’t have to go to a temple. You don’t have to travel. You can have a face-to-face conversation with the creator of the world, the one who breaths stars, right here, right now; because he dwells in you. You can boldly approach the throne room of grace! That should be cause for praise!
Speaking of praise, (didn’t see that transitions coming, did you?) how is your praise life, when it comes to thanksgiving? We as humans tend to only talk to God when we need something. It’s at that time we remember Paul saying, “Pray without ceasing.” But we forget the other two-thirds of that statement, “Rejoice always, and give thanks in all circumstances.” Are you one who spends more time before God complaining than you do worshiping and being thankful? A lot of us, myself included, fall into the mindset that when things are falling apart, we should only ask, seek, and knock. We forget that God is God and that he does everything for his own glory. We forget that even in the bad times we should rejoice and be thankful. When all we see is the struggle we can turn into modern-day Israelites (old blog plug), and we start complaining to God.
Maybe if we were more thankful, and rejoicing always, we wouldn’t have time to doubt. We wouldn’t have time or a place for fear. Thankfulness and rejoicing in who God is, fills our hearts and minds with peace and joy. You want to know why you are so bitter and angry all the time? How much time do you spend dwelling on the good things of God, versus the things that are dragging you down?
Allow me to use my own life as an example (not to boast, but to show how great God has been to me). I am currently out of work. I am on disability. Which is oh, so fun to deal with! They send paperwork to me, I send it to the doctor, the information is not enough, so they deny my claim. Then they send me more paperwork to send to the doctor, that the doctor fills out, that meets their standards, I get approved, and get paid. This has happened twice now. Keeps me on my toes. Which begs the question, why don’t they send the second set of paperwork with the first? Who knows?
I deal with trembles, shakes, and muscle spasms on a daily basis. I have to take medication in the morning to help, and more medication at night just to sleep. Without the meds, my brain does not shut off at night, and things get worse and lead to seizures. I cannot be around when too much going on, as too much volume in noise, and too much going on visually, makes the shaking worse and leads to seizures. I cannot work more than a couple hours a day, that includes writing, reading, and cleaning the house a little. Anything more leads to seizures. Unless I take a nap, and that provide some relief. I nap a lot now.
On top of all of that, my wife now has to do all the driving, she hates driving. I have been on short term disability for almost my allotted 12 weeks. My insurance has now lapsed. On top of not working and not providing for my family, all the benefits we had, now cease to exist. Welcome to the valley. This is the pit my life is in right now. I still have no idea when my seizures, trembles, and shakes will be under control. There is no end in sight right now. To the world around me, I have every right to shake my fist at God and scream to the heavens. I have every right to pray without ceasing. Asking over and over again for this to stop and this season of my life to end.
I choose instead to be like job, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” I choose to praise without ceasing. A few months ago my complaining prayers to praise ratio was at best 90/10. Ninety percent complaining and ten percent praise. Today I find it is more 60/40. With 60% being praise and thanksgiving and 40% being prayer for others, not just myself. I don’t have time to complain, when I am focused on all the good things the Lord has for me.
So even in the deepest darkest valley, I am grateful. Grateful that I have a savior who lives within me, and will hold my hand, and walk me though this fire. I am thankful that I get to spend more time in his word and more time writing to you. I don’t have the distraction of work to keep me from it. I am grateful that I get to spend every night with my daughters and be home when my wife is. I feel like we have grown closer. I am most grateful for the idols being smashed in my life. I asked for this. I prayed for this. This is a direct answer to prayer.
For months, I cried out to God to smash the idols in my life, that were taking me away from him. I prayed that he would grant me my hearts desire to do ministry full time. I prayed that he would be my everything. Guess what. There are no more idols, I get to do ministry daily, and he put me in a place where he is all I have. He is my everything. God has provided for us. We have not been without; the bills still get paid. He is meeting our needs according to his riches and mercy. The stimulus money hit my back account when funds were running low. Now we have provisions for 3-4 more month. God is so good!
So, how about you? What are you thankful for? How can you change your prayer life around? There is always something we can be grateful for. Let’s focus on those things. The good things. The praise worthy things. If we set our minds on things above and not on earthly things, if we seek first, the kingdom of God and his righteousness, there is no need to fear. There is no need to doubt. The lover of our souls will provide if we are doing his will.
You can continue to cry to God and complain, but that just results in more fear, more doubt, and its not a very good way to lead others to the love of Christ. If all we do is complain, who wants to serve that God? If we are grateful for the little things, the big things, and the in-between things. Seeing the good in the darkness. Holding on to God’s hand as we walk through the valley. He will give us peace and joy that will make others want to know how we do it. We will become a light in the darkness, a city on a hill, and the salt of the earth. Let’s spend a little less time complaining and more time praising God. Amen!