So, when should we pray to God? A student may pray before a test (especially if he or she neglected to study). A pastor may pray before a sermon (hopefully not for the same reason, though!). A family may pray before a meal. All of these are great times to pray, but they are certainly not the only times in our lives to make use of that opportunity.
Take a minute to read I Thessalonians 5:16-18. (It shouldn’t take a full minute, since verses 16 and 17 have just two words each in this translation, making them favorites of kids who want to get credit for the number of Bible verses they can memorize.)
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is Godʼs will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV
When I was young, I thought that “pray continually” meant that I had to perpetually be saying things to God…like, all the time. That would be a big responsibility, and make it difficult to do other things that Christians should be doing (including listening to God). Any good dictionary could have pointed out my vocabulary mistake, though: I had mistaken “continually” (regularly, repeatedly, etc.) for “continuously” (all the time). However, considering the extreme – constant, continuous prayer, 24/7 – helps us get an idea of what praying continually might look like. We should be ready to talk to God at all times, and then do so whenever it makes sense.
Many will say that talking with God is like talking with a friend. In the same way, sometimes we may catch up with our friends informally when we’re together, and other times we may plan to talk on a regular basis (maybe every week at a certain time). Some friends may be easiest to catch by text message, while others prefer to sit and talk over lunch.
I won’t even pretend to be able to tell you the specific “schedule” that you and God should plan on taking together, but here are some ideas to get you thinking:
- Pray in the morning, even before you get out of bed (or maybe after the first cup of coffee), to review your day with God and get ready for what awaits you.
- Pray at meals, not just because you have food to eat, but because you have received other gifts (like life and salvation) from God.
- Pray when you’re going from one place to another. Talk with God about where you came from and where you’re going. (It’s perfectly ok to pray with your eyes open. In fact, when driving, this is a better choice than praying with your eyes closed.)
- Pray when you are challenged. You can ask for wisdom, patience, or a way out of the problem. God provides all of these, but sometimes he knows that you need a different blessing than you ask for.
- Pray in the evening. An old song says, “Count your blessings”, which is a great thing to do as you reflect on your day. Not everything may have gone well, but there is usually something you can appreciate.
A version of this devotion originally appeared at http://fcccanton.com/when-to-pray/ as a Study Guide. Reprinted here by permission.