A few months ago, I asked the Lord, among other things, to transform my prayer life. Not long after that, a raging spiritual battle began. It was unexpected and fierce, but it changed how I pray and how often I pray. Even as I feel scarred and weak from this war against my soul, I am glad that God answers prayer, even answers in surprising ways.
One thing yet to have changed is being able to pray as commanded in these verses, “without ceasing . . .”
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. Brothers, pray for us. (1 Thessalonians 5:12–25)
As I read through this today in context, obviously if anyone is going to do all that is outlined here, they would need to constantly pray! Life is filled with reasons and excuses to disrespect others, ignore their needs, and grumble and complain. I cannot be anything close to the description above without relying on Jesus Christ, and my connection to His grace and power is prayer — constant prayer.
The psalmist learned this too and had several things to say about his own prayer life. I can learn from these verses how God wants me to pray . . .
With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord! I will keep your statutes. I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies. I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise. (Psalm 119:145–148)
My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up. (Psalm 5:3 NKJV)
Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice. (Psalm 55:17)
Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! (Psalm 57:8)
From these and other passages, I realize I need to rise early for prayer. With the day ahead of me, better to get my heart in tune with the heart of God — before I start off on the wrong foot, before I get bombarded with whatever my spiritual enemies might throw at me, and before I have any opportunities to rely on myself for anything.
Yesterday, I tried this by getting up a bit earlier and attempting to change my schedule so prayer was closer to dawn than it has been. It didn’t work. The distractions were incredible and the whole day seemed messed up. As I think about this now, it seems as if everything was pitted against me, and in my experience, this means it was a good idea. Satan never tries to interfere with bad ideas.
Prayer without ceasing is not a spiritual exercise that I can perform. Rather, it is the atmosphere in which God wants me to live, starting with the moment I wake up. It then should continue all day and influence my sleep and even my dreams. Perhaps the desire to do this will mean more warfare, but because this is the will of God, He will be fighting for me.