Praying Without Ceasing

by Howard Glass

Our better prayers are not the ones said in a formal manner. When we first become Christians, deliberate prayer is essential. The "old man" is not interested in developing a spiritual life, so we are encouraged to establish a regular prayer time and place.

Our enemy is not without limitations. Once a willful devotion to prayer becomes our habit he is at a great disadvantage and will focus elsewhere. Once he gives up his efforts to turn us about we can find something better.

When two people work together for a long time, teamwork becomes second nature between them. Once they are dependent on each other's support, working alone is unwelcome. I tell my wife, "No one likes to be taken for granted. But I want you to feel as if you can take me for granted." I want her to be so secure in our relationship that questioning my love for her seems foreign and silly. She should never need to look back to know that I am behind her.

We can know God's company in a similar way.

Long time partners need not communicate much about important things; they usually know the other's stance naturally. Though you focus exclusively on God at regular times you need not think of Him as someone you must make time for. He can simply be there, welcome in any frame of your mind, sharing every thought. If He is not, ask Him to be at once! You are missing out.

The better kind of prayer happens when you sense that God is aware of your concerns before you pray. When some soul is in need and occupies our thoughts that person occupies God's thoughts as well. So then, when we do kneel or "bow our heart" to offer a prayer we get the sense that the petition is already made; that the work is already in progress and nothing further is required. You may even find gratitude already crowding out your desperation; hope strangely taking the place of your appeal. "before they call I will answer; and while they are still speaking I will hear" (Isa. 65:24). This is at first baffling; we may suppose our lack of a burden means our spiritual life is weak. It may mean exactly the opposite.

Sensing our concern for another, Jesus takes the burden upon Himself. By keeping God's presence ever before us we expand the capacity of our love. This dynamic forms slowly and we may not see it coming. But how comforting to sense that Jesus cares about the things we care about, and that we hardly need to ask Him to undertake for someone we love.

Howard Glass is a freelance writer who serves as a small-group leader at
the East Main Street Presbyterian Church in Grove City, Penn.

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