I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. 33 May the God of peace be with you all. Amen. (Romans 15:30-16:1 ESV)
Prayer is a vital component of worship. God desires more from us than simply the performance of a series of religious activities. He desires a relationship with us, and relationships depend on communication. In simple terms this is all that prayer is, communication with God.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 Paul instructs us to pray without ceasing. I think this is a very good example of the continuous nature of worship. Our attitude toward God should be reflected in all our activities as we are in constant communication with Him. In simpler words, prayer should be a habit.
Some habits are easy to develop, and we don’t consciously think about them. It is easy to make a habit of tying my shoes because I get the positive feedback of having my shoes stay on my feet when I do. If I don’t tie my shoes, then they fall of and my feet are no longer protected. Some habits are hard to develop. I am attempting to make exercise a habit. While I have confidence in my doctors and their consistent message that exercise will make me healthier, I don’t feel that way when I’ve completed my exercise routine.
Prayer can be like that. There are certainly many examples of God answering prayer in spectacular ways throughout the Bible. However, I find this example fascinating. Paul asks the believers who receive this letter to struggle in prayer with him. These are big issues for Paul, and he desires more than a casual mention of his requests to God. He makes two requests. The first is that remain free and the second is that the church in Jerusalem would accept the offering he brings. The book of Acts tells us that the second request was answered with a resounding yes. However, the first request was answered with a definite no. I have no doubt that God understood Paul’s desire to reach Rome. God just had another plan. God’s plan was a long imprisonment that resulted in the writing of much of the New Testament from which we directly benefit.
If Paul depended on an immediate and positive response to each of his prayers, he would have never developed the habit of prayer. God often said no to Paul. Prayer becomes a habit for us for other reasons. At the core of a solid prayer habit is a desire to spend time with God. It seems so simple, but if I examine my day, I find that I make time to do many other things and don’t make enough time to spend with God in prayer.
I want to be healthier, so I exercise even though I don’t perceive an immediate benefit. I want to know God better, so I will continue to work on improving my prayer life.
For my grandchildren: