The Prayer Mandate
by Sharon Betters
Pray without ceasing.
1 Thessalonians 5:17
Many of us struggle to reconcile our dreams with our reality:
Parents of grown children are speechless when their cherished adult child makes life choices in direct conflict with Scriptural mandates. Well intentioned words create more conflict and parents silently ask, “Who are you and what have you done with my child?”
Unexpected medical diagnoses rob many of dreams and drain bank accounts.
Parenting a child with special needs takes up every minute, creating an isolated home with little hope of cultivating friendships necessary for survival.
A friend loses a job with two weeks severance pay. She already lives from paycheck to paycheck.
A friend’s precious child is bullied and the school administration turns a blind eye.
These are just a few of the heavy burdens carried by our circle of friends. Add to this list those whose life crises break your heart and we could conclude there is no hope and no way that we can help.
Pray without ceasing.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV
1 Thessalonians 5:17 NIV
There are no exceptions and no exemptions for any child of God when it comes to this mandate to pray. God never calls us to an action without also equipping us for it. Sadly, according to one survey, about 10% of Christians are satisfied with their prayer lives. Think of it. How many children of God are missing out on this supernatural privilege of intimacy with Jesus? How many of us are missing out? We often see prayer as a task, rather than a gift that naturally shows up throughout our daily lives. Instead of seeing prayer as one more task, God wants us to enjoy prayer as a pathway to His heart and freedom from worry.
I am watching friends who rush to prayer because they have no other recourse. As they let me come along on their painful journey, I am growing spiritually. Prayer takes them to the Cross where they discover they are not alone, no matter how isolating their circumstances. There is One present who knows the cries of their soul and longs to reveal Himself in their darkness. They tell me how agonizing in prayer opens their hearts and minds to wait on the Lord, to trust Him with their loved ones and to listen as He directs them in practical ways. They begin to recognize that life is a marathon, not a sprint. The waiting room is easier to bear when through agonizing in prayer they surrender to God’s sovereignty. Their burden changes from trying to manipulate their loved one, into listening to them and watching for signs that the Lord is changing their loved one’s heart. Often the one praying is the one transformed by a new recognition of their own sin, followed by repentance and life-giving forgiveness.
I am learning by watching my friends in the darkness that life-giving freedom comes when our goal is not to set straight another person, but rather to reflect Jesus in such a way that they long to know Him. I watch them pray and soak in Scripture, looking for specific ways they have contributed to the hard places. God humbles me when they share how God wants to transform their self-righteousness into a sweet fragrance of Jesus that entices others to long for Him as well. As I agonize in prayer with them, I am blessed to see their treasures in the darkness become mine.
Pray without ceasing. Is it time to exercise this mandate in your own life? Remember, Jesus needed to pray. How about us?
LIFE GIVING ENCOURAGEMENT
Every time you are tempted to respond, “Well, all I can do is pray” to a friend’s description of pain in her life, stop, and ask if you can pray with her on the spot. When burdens overwhelm you, remember God’s call to pray without ceasing. Run to Jesus with lamenting and pleading for His comfort and wisdom.
Review your prayer journal and note where you followed through on offering practical encouragement to a friend. Also, note how the Lord is shifting your heart from worry to watching.
Oh Lord, open our hearts and minds to the priceless power of prayer, recognizing that when You give a mandate, Your reasons go beyond our understanding. Prayer could be the door that opens up the power that transforms us from life-takers to life-givers.