April 6, 2021

And When You Pray…

“Pray fervently, like a nagging cough.”
Alistair Begg
Prayer. It can be redundant, confusing, even intimidating. I get it. Especially when today’s culture seems to flatter those who make a production out of what should be kept secret and criticize any who refuse to join the showboat. But prayer doesn’t have to be daunting. In many ways, it’s the simplest of conversations because, if it’s honest, the One who hears it will accept whatever you have to say.
The way I pray has most definitely morphed and evolved over the years. The bible contains certain passages dedicated to best prayer practices – Matthew 6:5-13, for example, where Jesus explicitly teaches his disciples how to pray. These are good. But what impacted my prayer life the most were smaller nuggets hidden all throughout the scriptures. And these little prayer nuggets all seem to reiterate Jesus’ words.

The Immediate

Nehemiah is one of those hidden gems. He was cup bearer for King Artaxerxes. One day, Nehemiah appeared sick and the king inquired of his health. Mid-conversation, Nehemiah immediately sends up a short, silent prayer. No doubt he prayed for the right way to humbly and confidently ask the king for a favor (see Nehemiah 2:1-5). But he did not get on his knees, bow his head, close his eyes, or recite a lengthy psalm. No, Nehemiah’s prayer must have only taken a moment in length as it was right in the middle of a conversation with somebody else. And yet it was heard by God and accepted as good.

The Mistaken

In 1 Samuel, we find Hannah overwhelmed with sadness because she didn’t have children. Through tears, she soundlessly prayed over her situation, pleading with God to give her a son. Hannah’s lips were moving as she prayed, but no sound could be heard. Eli, the priest, saw her lips moving and thought she was drunk since she wasn’t saying anything (see 1 Samuel 1:10-17). To an onlooker, her behavior seemed sketchy. But in fact it was genuine. Hannah’s prayer was mistaken for drunkenness. And yet it was heard by God and accepted as good.

 The Thankful

Paul’s letters throughout the new testament – addressed to fellow believers from all over – start with some sort of greeting. Oftentimes, he shares how he thanks God for them in his prayers (see Colossians 1:3-4). He is thankful to hear their faith in Christ is growing and see their love stretching out toward others. Not only is he thankful, but Paul specifically thanks God for other believers maturing in their faith. His prayers were heard by God and accepted as good.

 The Constant

Paul also encouraged other believers to pray all the time, in everything (see 1 Timothy 2:1-4 and Ephesians 6:18). He acknowledges that prayers should be of all kinds including requests, petitions, intercessions, of thanksgiving, for believers, nonbelievers, those in authority, asking for peace, godliness, and holiness.
 Alistair Begg, senior pastor of Parkside Church, related a healthy prayer life to a nagging cough. By this, he meant that a Christian’s prayer life should never really go away. Like a persistent cough, it should always be there, in your face, a multiple-times-daily need. When believers pray persistently – in all ways at all times – our prayers are heard by God and accepted as good.

 The Point

Prayer doesn’t have to be a big production. In fact, it probably shouldn’t. Do it silently – what is done in secret pleases the Lord. Do it anywhere – despite what others think, no situation is beyond the reach of God. Do it often – when you only have a minute or all day, when you’re thankful or in need, concerning yourself or others. These small prayer nuggets are in the scriptures for instruction and demonstration. Reflect on them. Go deeper in prayer. He’ll hear you.