Constant Contact: Insight on Prayer from Sandra Rhoads
I teach a Sunday school class of teenage girls. It’s one of the highlights of my week, and I feel like God has given me this task as a way of challenging and growing me. One thing we talked about this week is that “awkward silence” when someone asks a room full of people to answer a question or to pray.
Then I asked the girls if one of them would start us with a prayer.
We all know we’re supposed to pray. In certain circles of Christianity, we’re supposed to know how to pray well. Pray like the Puritans. Pray like Luther. Pray like Augustine. Well, at least pray like you know what you’re doing.
Admittedly, we’ve elevated spoken prayer into somewhat of an oral competition. We must sound holy. We must say the right things.
So, when it’s time to pray aloud, we freeze up, waiting for someone else to take the burden and free us of the need to perform.
We can’t act like this. Let me repeat that: We can’t act like this!
Prayer is communication with the Almighty God, yes, but it is possible for us because of and through the perfect atoning blood of Jesus Christ (see Eph. 2:13,18; 3:11, 12). We are approaching the throne of God Himself, but we can do this, amazingly, with boldness!
Our prayers aren’t to impress those around us. Our prayers are to God, for God’s glory. We can pray for people—and we should. But we shouldn’t pray for people in the sense that we’re praying to be heard by them.
Prayer isn’t all that complicated. And it’s meant to be something we do continually (1 Thess. 5:17).
How often do you pray?
When you pray, how often do you pray for other people?
When you pray for other people, how often do you want your prayers to be “done right” or to “sound good”?
Today we have some practical advice on prayer from author Sandra Fernandez Rhoads. She gives some insight into how and when to pray. Hint: without ceasing!
Over the years, I’ve learned the power of listening to that nudge when someone crosses my mind. Even if it’s someone I hadn’t talked to in a while. Whenever that happens, no matter how crazy life gets, I stop and pray for them. I don’t know what they’re going through, but I know God does.
Then I reach out, either text, DM, or phone call and check in, letting them know they’ve crossed my mind. If they’re a believer, I tell them I’ve been praying for them and then I press in, asking if everything is okay. A lot of times, they’re not okay. They’re struggling and my text, or call, or note of encouragement was what they needed to remind them God hears them. It doesn’t take a lot of time, just obedience when the name comes across my mind to act, right then.
I’m constantly praying for people wherever I go; the person waiting at the bus stop, the clerk handing me my food, anyone that strikes my thoughts through the day. Even ones that have a negative impact on me, like the person who cuts me off in traffic. I don’t usually say the prayers out loud, but I’m in constant communication with God, offering up prayers all day long. I find myself doing this at concerts, or with celebrities too, wondering who is covering them in prayer, who is guiding them to speak words that can change hearts and give hope to the world.
While it’s not physically ministering to people, and I might never see the effects of these prayers, I do believe they make a difference. If anything, it changes the way I interact with others around me, and that simple act can make all the difference in the world.
- Sandra Fernandez Rhoads
Praying for Strangers
Those were some great words! If you’ve ever wondered what the apostle Paul was talking about when he told us to “pray without ceasing,” Sandra just gave an excellent example. Pray for the people who randomly cross your mind. Even pray for the strangers around you!
At concerts (when we can go to those again!).
While buying groceries.
The point is, when prayer becomes so natural, so common for you that you pray for the guy who cuts you off in traffic, you’ve reached the point of praying without ceasing. This is more than an action, this is a mindset.
Our minds must be so God-focused that our knee-jerk reaction to anything is to pray.
There’s not exactly a magic wand for this kind of mindset, hate to break it to you. Though it is allowed by and driven by the Holy Spirit, it takes a decided effort on our part to seek the Lord, know His word, and desire His honor.
Getting “Better” at Praying Always
Prayer doesn’t just fall out of our heads. Despite our misguided efforts to learn to pray “right” or to pray in a way that “sounds good,” we do in fact have to practice praying. The kind of continuous prayer Sandra mentions here won’t just happen. It will take effort. Not the effort that says, “I want my prayers to sound like that guy’s.” Or, “I’ll use elevated vocabulary in my prayers to make them fancier.” But effort that says, “I want to please the Lord, and He tells me to pray always. I’ll work on it, even if no one ever knows but God.”
The great news is, this kind of continuous prayer does eventually happen.
Ongoing prayer is the goal. Not to check a box or to impress others or to feel great about ourselves, but, as Sandra indicated, to change our attitude and better glorify God. We’re not talking about waking up, starting a prayer, and not finishing with your “amen” until you fall asleep at night.
Rather, constant prayer is living in such a Jesus-centered state of mind that we pray at all times during the day, at all occasions.
Instead of sitting on our phones in the checkout line, let’s pray for those ahead of us. Instead of watching movies or concerts strictly for entertainment, consider praying for those celebrities (Sandra’s right, who else is praying for those sin-engulfed people?). We might be the only ones who pray for that person today, especially if it’s the person in the drive thru or the guy in front of us in line. Never forget what a privilege it is to pray to the sovereign God of the universe!
Praying for someone will affect our attitude. It just will. Go from being grumpy to being grateful. From annoyed to all is well. Prayer can do that.
Let’s make it a habit!