This week over 1,000 people at our Church begin a covenant we made with God and with each other. We have committed ourselves to pray daily for 40 consecutive days. The pastors of our Church are visibly excited about this potential life-changing process of people—I share their excitement!
Quite frankly, my prayer discipline often lacks. I get caught up in the busyness of the day and get easily distracted (Satan likes that). Often when I do pray it ends up being like a child writing out their Christmas wish-list or I only take the time when I really, really need God’s intervention in my life or in someone else’s life. If you are in crisis let me know—I really will pray for you!
But, I know that prayer is much more than a wish-list or crisis management tool, so during these 40 days I am personally committed to instilling what Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Let’s break this down:
– “Be joyful always”: In the Greek language this is the shortest verse in the Bible (not John 11:35 “Jesus wept”) but I contend this is probably the toughest verse for us to follow. How are we to be “joyful” when we face so many tragedies and hardships? The problem is that we confuse “joy” with “happy”. Happiness is a temporary emotion based on a feeling or event, joyfulness is a condition of contentment and security that can only be given by God.
– “Pray continually”: Paul is not telling us to spend our waking hours with our heads bowed and eyes-closed, verbally praying. I believe he is telling us to continually be in an attitude of awareness and surrender to God, realizing He is actively engaged in our thoughts and actions. By doing this, “dedicated prayer-time” becomes something we long for and make time for. Let’s face it, if we make it a priority it will happen. There are TV shows we just will not miss
– “Give thanks in all circumstances”: I have realized that “pride” is the one thing that brings me down faster than anything else—I’m sure I’m alone with this. I have tried to be humbler to overcome pride but found that did not work very well; it tends to lead to avoidance of an issue or circumstance. Rather, I am trying to follow this passage in giving thanks to God no matter what I face. Reflecting on the circumstances of my life that I would have preferred not to have experienced I have realized that God used those times to strengthen me, give me empathy towards others, and to see His power and glory at work. For that…I give Him thanks!
– “God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”: When praying I must remember that God’s answer is summed up as “No, Slow, or Go”.
- “No” is not the answer we wanted. Sometimes things that we pray for are not meant for us. Even though we pray for it continually, God has another plan. When we get this answer, we are disappointed at best or our faith waivers at worst while figuring out why God didn’t provide. We won’t realize until later when we get something so much better. Then looking back at the prayer, we understand that it was not meant for us.
- “Slow” usually means what we are praying for is not meant for us…at least not yet. The Universe is set on God’s timing and not ours. But we can be like little kids keep saying “I want this now”. There are reasons why we are not given these requests when we ask. It is typically something we are lacking, and we must learn before we are given our requests. This gets tricky because it is not a “no” answer but because we are not given it right away, we think it’s a “no”. Strong faith keeps us believing it will happen at a point, being in the Word reminds us that God is faithful and all things are possible through Him.
- “Go” this is the answer we desire—otherwise we would not have even prayed. If we are meant for it, and it’s the right timing, our prayers are answered. God does answer our prayers. It’s not because we keep asking. But because we are ready for that prayer we are requesting.
As I enter this 40 day covenant I not only pray for revival in my Church and community…but also for revival within myself!