Note: This is Post # 9 in the series titled “The Transformed Life” based on Romans 12. Please click here for previous posts: POST # 1, POST # 2, POST # 3, POST # 4, POST # 5, POST # 6, POST # 7, POST # 8.
Prayer is an integral part of the transformed life. No wonder, Paul in describing the transformed life in Romans 12 calls believers to be “faithful in prayer” [Romans 12:12c]. This phrase is translated in various ways depending upon the translation one follows: “devoted to prayer” [NASB], “constant in prayer” [ESV], “be persistent in prayer” [CSB], “keep on praying” [NLT],”persist in prayer” [NET] and “continue steadfastly in prayer” [NKJV]. You get the idea. It’s a call for a life that is to be intently engaged in prayer.
And this call should not be a surprising call for us because if the ultimate goal of our transformation is to become fully like Christ, then we should be marked by prayer as Christ himself was marked by prayer. If there were one person who did not need prayer, it was Jesus. Yet, the gospel accounts clearly show that he is the one person who modeled the example of constant prayer.
Jesus ministered in the context of prayer. Even though he only had 3+ years for public ministry, yet he was never too hurried to spend hours in prayer. For Jesus, no day began or closed without prayer. He prayed before his arrest in Gethsemane, he prayed while on the cross. Till his last breath, he prayed.
No wonder his disciples who watched him closely not only asked him to teach them to pray [Lk 11:1] but also in their own lives after the coming of the Holy Spirit pursued prayer as a top priority. The early Church we see in Acts 2:42 was marked by a devotion to prayer. The apostles, when confronted with church-related problems, would not move from their primary calling to pray and preach [Acts 6:4].
The book of Acts shows again and again how the early church devoted itself to prayer. In fact, if one were to go through Acts, we find at least 20 references to prayer [Acts 1:13-14, 1:24-25, 2:42, 3:1, 4:24, 29, 31, 6:3-4, 6, 7:60, 8:15-17, 9:11, 9:40, 10:2, 10:9, 12:5, 12, 13:3, 14:23, 16:25, 20:36, 21:5, 27:35-36, 28:8]. As we can see, prayer mattered much to the first Christians. No wonder the early church was a mighty force!
Just as he does here in this passage in Romans, Paul also stresses the need for constant prayer in his other letters. Here are some examples:
Ephesians 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Colossians 4:2 “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Pray continually.”
It is only right that a praying Master has praying servants. If Jesus was marked by faithful prayer, so must we! The early church followed his pattern and so must we!
By nature, we rely on our strength to solve the problems of life and don’t rush to God first.
The story is told of a man who after undergoing several options for his cancer treatment was finally told by his doctor, “We have exhausted all options. Perhaps it is time for you to pray.” The man responded, “So, it’s finally come down to that!”
Prayer as the final option! “When all else fails, try prayer.” That’s the counsel of the world! How opposite to what the Bible teaches. Prayer is our first option, the second option, and final option. All other activities that we do should flow from an atmosphere of prayer. You see, when we don’t pray, we are basically declaring self-dependence rather than God-dependence. We might not say this through words, but our actions proclaim it openly.
Even in ministry, prayer should be the dominant action. We must not pray in the context of ministry. Instead, we must do all ministry in the context of prayer. Ministry flows out from time spent in prayer. When Jesus chose the 12 disciples, we are told that he chose them to first “be with him” and then go “out to preach” [Mark 3:14]. Be with him first and then go out to minister!
Jesus spent time with the Father and then ministered. Apostles spent time with Jesus and then ministered. In fact, the very first missionary journey was launched in the context of prayer and fasting [Acts 13:1-3].
It should be the same with us too. Our prayer should fuel all our other activities. Many people pray only when they go through suffering. That’s a natural instinct even for unbelievers. But as believers, we should not wait for trials to pray fervently. We should always be praying diligently. The words of Amy Carmichael affirm this truth:
“We must learn to pray far more for spiritual victory than for protection from battle-wounds, relief from their havoc, rest from their pain…This triumph is not deliverance from, but victory in trial and that’s not intermittent but perpetual” [Edges of His Ways, CLC, p. 92, as quoted in Hope for the Troubled Heart, Billy Graham, p. 167].
It’s been said, “If Christians spent as much time praying as they do grumbling, they would soon have nothing to grumble about.”
With that said, how can we put this command of being faithful in prayer into practice? I want to help us by giving 10 reminders or 10 helpful hints to help us in our pursuit of being faithful in prayer.
1. Get a Quiet Place. We need to find a spot in our homes or outside where we can pray without distractions. Let that be our prayer closet.
2. Set Specific Times. We need to discipline ourselves to spend set times with God in private and keep that appointment. That sacred time must be guarded at all cost. Praying at specific times will help us pray more at other times as well.
3. Use the Bible when Praying. By using the Bible, we can ensure our prayers are in conformity with God’s will as revealed in his word. We must learn to turn Scripture verses back as prayer.
4. Pray with Humility. God is the Creator; we are the created ones. There is a huge distinction. This reality will help us approach him with humility. Even though we are his children, we must still go with an attitude of humility which includes confession and repentance from sin. Our prayers must come from a humble heart that says and means, “Not my will, but yours be done!”[ Lk 22:42].
5. Pray with Honesty. God welcomes us to be honest with him. So, we must feel free to reverently and unreservedly pour out our hearts to the One who hears our cries.
6. Be Specific in your Requests. Yes, God knows our needs before we say it to him. But by asking, we are displaying our dependence upon him. And by being specific, it also helps us to see if our motives are clean.
7. Remove Distractions. We must put our gadgets away when praying. A notification noise from the phone or tablet can quickly get us distracted. At times, even the very presence of a device can tempt us to take a quick peek and thus get distracted from praying. Jesus deserves our full attention. We must not keep talking with our spouse or children when praying as well. It can be very distracting. That’s why we need a quiet place.
8. Pray with others. In addition to private prayer, we must seek to pray with our family members and fellow believers. We need to attend church prayer meetings. By praying together, we not only can encourage others but will find ourselves being encouraged to pray even more faithfully.
9. Pray for others.
Intercessory prayer is to be an integral part of our prayers. And our prayers for others must extend beyond their physical and material needs; it should be dominated by their spiritual needs. This would include, but not limited to praying for the salvation of the lost and praying for greater spiritual fruit to be borne by fellow believers.
10. Pray not only to seek God’s hand but also to seek God’s face. Often our prayers are focused only on what we can receive from God’s hand. We must learn to seek his face more. We must seek to be more intimate with him and experience his presence. 1 Chronicles 16:11 says, “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” According to Psalm 27:8, this was David’s resolve: “My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek.”
Much more could be added to this list [such as praying in faith, praying with perseverance, etc.]. But these few thoughts should hopefully get one motivated to pray more faithfully.
Jesus said in Matthew 26:40, “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” How many of us give that hour on a daily basis? At most 10-15 minutes is given by the average believer. How can we expect God to hear us when we give him so little time? 1 hour is about 4% of a 24-hr day. That’s less than 5%!
We give more time to so many other non-essential things—think TV, social media! The issue is not a lack of time, but a lack of understanding of the seriousness of the need to pray that prevents us from being faithful in prayer.
A praying Master should have praying servants! So, let us give ourselves to a life of faithful prayer and thus be transformed even more into the image of Christ!