Call it old school, but when I was kid, the way to hike through the woods and mountains involved using a map and compass to guide the way. I would orient the map and follow the trusty arrow pointing me in the right direction to the next point and ultimately to my destination. Nowadays GPS technology make this task efficient and easy, but there is something about “slowing down” which makes the task meaningful and functional.
No doubt, one of the most remarkable gifts God gives to communicate with his creation is the gift of prayer. Prayer is sometimes portrayed as a one-sided effort to present one’s thoughts and desires to God. We have been taught to “thank God for your food”, “pray before you go to bed”, “pray for the sick”, and definitely to “pray before you take a test.”
For somebody in a relationship with God, prayer is so much more! Prayer is a gift of communication to be both given and received. In the Bible, Paul inspired by God wrote these words to help people learn how to pray: “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.” Ephesians 6:18. In this passage, prayer is a conversation with God, which ultimately helps one grow in that relationship.
It sounds great to be admonished to pray on all occasions, but how does that functionally work? Could you really dedicate all your waking day to praying? Instead of thinking about prayer as a task to perform or being an event, it actually becomes an ongoing conversation with God.
Let us look how this works: You wake up to start your day and say, “God, I praise you for another day!” Maybe then, you start to thank God for the blessings you do have and as your day unfolds and you see or think of new things you continue to lift those thoughts up to God. One does not need an audible voice to pray, but like the scripture says, “pray in the Spirit.”
Prayer communication connects you to what God is doing in prayer and helps you align yourself with the priorities of God. So asking God for guidance and help throughout the day keeps your relationship active and purposeful. God may answer you by reminding you about something, someone, or even help you recall the best way to live as described in the Bible. Paul reminds those following Jesus to be purposeful in praying for others, as there are many needs and God answers prayers.
While it is always appropriate to pray at specifics times, consider the challenge of praying throughout your day. The benefits of a “prayer conversation” with God can help you draw near to him and he to you.
Frank Alioto is the pastor at Roots Family Church in Soldotna (907-252-0036) and serves as a chaplain in our community.