Never stop praying.
—2 Thessalonians 5:17
We hear it all the time. It’s become part of our lingo, and we don’t even realize we’re saying it. Pastors, businessmen, parents, teachers, coaches, athletes and even FCA staff are all guilty of uttering these four words:
“Let’s pray real quick.”
I believe these words grieve God’s heart, because He desires a continuous conversation—not lip service.
The underlying message of saying, “Let’s pray real quick” is, “Before we get to the important stuff, let’s rush through the God stuff.” It becomes a rote habit that bypasses our heart. Real quick prayer helps us look spiritual, but it lacks power. Connecting with God can’t be rushed. God must think, “There they go again! I wish they wouldn’t think of Me as a ritual or a rabbit’s foot that they can rub for good luck before they start their work.”
Prayer isn’t something to rush through to get to the work. Prayer is the work!
Quick prayers happen everywhere. We have a quick word of prayer in the locker room, board room, church and home. It has permeated our entire Christian culture. I am still waiting for the pastor to get up on a Sunday morning and say, “We have so many needs, concerns and issues that we need God to intervene. So let’s have a long word of prayer.”
Martin Luther was once asked what his plans for the following day were, and he answered: “Work, work, from early until late. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” The busier he got, the more he prayed. In today’s world, that is counterintuitive. When we get busy, we reduce or eliminate our time with the Lord. Maybe that is why we are OK with a quick word of prayer. We have short prayers privately, so it becomes publicly acceptable. But prayer was never intended to be confined to saying a blessing before a meal, asking for a win before a game, or quickly pausing before starting a meeting. Prayer is an all-day deal.
“We are to ‘keep the receiver off the hook’ and be in touch with God so that our praying is part of a long conversation that is not broken.” — Warren Wiersbe
Unfortunately, we get upset with those who pray too long. They love to pray, but we grow antsy and frustrated when they go on and on. Our hearts grow hard toward those people, but in reality, our hearts are growing hard toward God. Instead of seeking and pursuing more prayer with a heart of joy, we look for the quick and easy prayer so we can check it off the list and get on with the day. We know prayer is important enough to do it, but not important enough to clear the schedule and make it a priority. Virtually everything else is allowed to crowd out that time.
Prayer needs to be the driving force in our lives. It’s our greatest weapon, but I’m not sure we actually believe this is true. We need to move from mini prayers to mighty prayers, short prayers to long prayers, and shallow prayers to deep prayers.
Developing this discipline takes time; at first, you may get easily distracted by the tasks ahead of you or your worries. But find a quiet place, play worship music and even kneel. Try a physical posture that improves your ability to focus. Try writing your prayers in a journal, or pray through the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13).
Prayer makes us.
Prayer molds us.
Prayer matures us.
Continuous, nonstop prayer is the answer. In 2 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul encourages us to pray without ceasing. He sees prayer as a conversation. He tells us to always keep the lines of communication open with the Father, in every circumstance. Paul’s encouragement is for us to have a life of prayer. Jesus frequently got away to pray. He told us to stay connected to the vine—which is where we get every nutrient for life. He took the time to listen and hear from God. His prayer time wasn’t rushed; it was intentional, patient and purposeful.
I learned the power of prayer firsthand in 2007 when I took my first trip to South Korea and quickly learned they lived out 2 Thessalonians 5:17. When they said, “Let’s pray,” it was time to hunker in. It wasn’t just a quick blessing, rather, it was a time to communicate, connect and commune with the God of the Universe. I was so convicted of my shallow prayer life. During our time there, we ran an FCA Sports Camp, and I witnessed an 8-year-old camper crying out to the Lord for hours. I was so moved that I returned home with a renewed passion and commitment to the discipline of prayer!
Our lives should be one continuous prayer. Remember: We shouldn’t just pray for the work. Prayer is the work. It’s our foundation and our covering. It’s our first response, not our last resort. Great prayer matures a competitor, and a great competitor matures in prayer. Be quick to pray, not to pray quickly. Let’s have a long word of prayer.
Father, please forgive me for praying quickly when I should be praying constantly. Help me to always be quick to pray, but not to rush through prayer. I don’t want to dishonor You by always rushing when I speak with You. Long conversations with You help me to understand Your heart. Quick prayers prevent my relationship with You from growing. Teach me Lord to pray. In Jesus’ name. Amen.