Lesson 3 - The Purpose and Effectiveness of Prayer





Prayer is one of those topics that we will discuss numerous times in these courses.  This is because prayer is perhaps one of the most important aspects of the Christian walk.  In this lesson, we will specifically focus on the purpose of prayer and know how to be effective in your prayers.

Here is a question for you to ponder.   How much time do you spend in prayer?   Some people are what you might call Prayer Warriors.  Without hesitation and with seemingly no effort at all, they can spend hours engaged in intense prayer.  Other people struggle with prayer.  They may do it regularly, but they do it with difficulty.  They struggle to stay focused on the prayer more than a few moments at a time, being distracted by many thoughts.  Some of this may be personality oriented, but it is quite possible that the reason some people are “good” at prayer and others are “not so good” at prayer is that the ones who struggle with prayer may not fully understand the full purpose and effectiveness of prayer?  Of course that may not always be the case, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to look more closely at prayer to make sure we have a proper understanding of it.  Although we will definitely look at some tips for being a better prayer warrior, the purpose of this lesson is not to help you prayer better, but to help you understand prayer better.  Perhaps the one will help with the other. 


What is Prayer?


There is so much packed in that one little question: What exactly is prayer?  Stop and think to yourself about that question.  In fact, before you go any further in this lesson, pause for a moment and write down the answer to that question: What is prayer?  Also write down the answer to this related question: What does prayer mean to you right now?  Stop now and do that.  As you continue in this lesson, keep those answers in mind to see if or how they might change.  You will need them for the questions at the end of the lesson.


According to Harper’s Bible Dictionary, prayer is the act of petitioning, praising, giving thanks, or confessing to God.  Although not entirely incorrect, it may very well be definitions like that which contribute towards our often incomplete understanding of prayer.  We need to think of prayer as so much more than just a one way flow of information from us to God, especially when we realize that anything we might wish to say to God he already knows.  Instead, we need to think of prayer in terms of intimate communication with God. 

Prayer itself is not one-way, with frail little humans sending hopeful petitions to a distant and transcendent divinity.  Prayer is not a spiritual mail order catalogue where we send in orders and sit back and wait for delivery of an answer to show up on our doorstep.  Yes, God certainly is transcendent.  He – that is God the Father - is above and beyond all of us.  He is separate from us, because he is Holy, Holy, Holy.  However, God is also Immanuel, God with us.  He – that is God the Holy Spirit - is present with us at every moment.  He is living within us.  Because of that, we have the ability to be in constant contact with him.  Because of what he – that is God the Son, Jesus Christ – did on the cross, the veil of the Temple curtain that separated us from the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom.  That is why the author of Hebrews can say in Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Prayer is one-on-one communication with a God who is present with us at all times. 

Before, however, we can really talk about the meaning of prayer, though, we need to reflect on a few misconceptions about prayer.  As previously mentioned, prayer is not getting what we want from God.  As we progress through this lesson, we will see that while it may be perfectly acceptable to present our desires to God, and while we have the promise from God that he will always answer our prayers, we should not presume upon God do always do our bidding through prayer.   To have a “name it and claim it” philosophy of prayer is to make – or at the very least attempt to make - God your slave – a genie in a bottle.  When we use prayer that way, we dishonor his majesty and diminish his glory.  Some may disagree with that perspective, but we need to keep in mind that he is creator and we are the created.  His promise to answer our prayers does not elevate us above him to be his master.  Of course it is not possible to actually make God our slave and none of us would openly admit that is what we are trying to do.  However, our prayer life sometimes proves that is how we think and any philosophy on prayer that presumes we can get whatever we desire from God has that premise at its foundation.  When we treat God that way, it should not be surprising when our prayers appear to go unanswered and our prayer life is ineffective.  Rather, we shall see how the real purpose of prayer allows us to glorify God in his majesty and so strengthen our faith.

Likewise, prayer is not a means to change God’s mind.  We have already seen in prior lessons that God is immutable and unchangeable.  Even though there are places in scripture where the stated implication is that God’s mind was changed by prayer, we shall see that there is an amazing and enlightening truth concerning our answered prayers - that God intended the final result all along but that he wanted you to pray for it.


The Truth About Prayer


Unfortunately, to truly obtain a proper perspective on prayer, there are some risks we need to take.  We need to discuss some concepts that might have the effect of shaking your faith in prayer just a little bit.  Hopefully that will not happen.  However, we need to do this in order to rebuild an understanding of prayer that is more biblically grounded.

First of all, we must keep in mind that God is omniscient.  In other words, God knows everything.  We know this from our prior lessons where we studied the character of God.  However, think about the idea of God being omniscient from the perspective of prayer.  Assuming you have already prayed today, what did you pray about?  What requests did you make of God?   If you think about it, it should come as no surprise to you that God already knew that.  Not only did he know the need, but he also knew your desires regarding that need.  There is nothing you could say in your prayers to God that he did not already know about.  Jesus himself points this out in Matthew 6:8.  Reminding us not to be like the pagans when we pray he says, “Be not ye therefore like unto them, for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask Him.”   But if God already knows my needs, knows my desires regarding those needs, and even knows my intent to pray about those needs, why pray at all?  We shall get to that in a moment.

Second, God is also unchanging.  Just like we saw in a prior lesson that God is omniscient, we also saw that God never changes.  He is already perfect in every respect.  That means there is nothing that we can do to change him in any way.  We cannot change the mind of God.  If we could change the mind of God, then that means that God’s prior thinking before we changed his mind was imperfect.  It also means that our thinking was superior to God’s.  Stop for a moment to think about what the implications would be if that were really true.  If either of those facts is true – that God’s thinking was imperfect or that our thinking was superior to God’s – then God is not God.  Instead, the truth is that God’s thinking is always superior.  Our thinking is always inferior.  God’s thoughts are always perfect.  As it says in 2 Samuel 22:31, “As for God, His way is perfect...”   Even if we presume that perhaps God is relenting to our desires, to allow a path that is less perfect than his perfect will, then we must also acknowledge that he already knew he was going to do so before we even asked him to do so.  We did not change the mind of God, but rather he always knew what he planned to do based on his knowledge of our petitions.  In other words, his great and perfect plan from the beginning of time has already taken into account that he decided long ago to listen to your prayer and respond to it.  You did not change his mind, because such was already in his mind.  This again begs the question:  Why then do we pray?  

To add further fuel to the fire, God does not need us to pray.  When we studied God’s character, we also saw that he is independent of us.  He is completely sovereign to carry out his will.  He has no need of our worship, no need of our assistance, and no need of our prayers.  He desires them as part of his love for us, but he does not need them.  In many pagan mythologies, the pagan gods thrived on and needed the prayers and worship of mortals.  Without them, the gods’ majesty and power were diminished.  That is not the case with the one true God.  What can man do to add anything to God?  What can man’s prayers do for God?  If he has no need of our prayers, what do they accomplish?  And yet, we are commanded to pray.  In Matthew 6, Jesus says 3 different times “when you pray” – presuming that we do pray.  Scripture is filled with both commands and examples of prayer.  But if God has no need of them, then why command us to pray? What is their purpose?  Before we answer that, there is one more truth about God’s character we need to discuss that relates to prayer.

God is good.  It would be easy – and even natural – for us to be a little bit uncomfortable about prayer at this point.  That was the risk we took at the beginning of the discussion.  However, we need to remember that God is also perfectly good.  More than that, God is our heavenly Father.  That means he is a good Father.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 7 that, as a good Father, that God will give us the good things we need when we ask for them.  In other words, we need not fear or be concerned about these truths that we just learned.  They should not shake our faith in prayer.  Certainly, there may be a potential disconnect now between our understanding of prayer and scriptures’ commands to us regarding prayer.   So let us close that gap now and come to an understanding of the true purpose of prayer.


The Purpose of Prayer


Despite everything that has been said thus far, it is still first and foremost God’s will for prayer to bring about his purposes.  That does not mean that his purposes will not be accomplished if we do not pray.  God will accomplish his purposes.  He knows whether we will or will not pray and his eternal plan has already been adjusted accordingly.  However, it is precisely for this reason that he commands us to pray.  God has always involved man in the accomplishment of his will on earth, and prayer is simply another way in which he does precisely that.  In his book, The Circle Maker, Mark Batterson says it this way: “God has determined that certain expressions of His power will only be exercised in response to prayer.”  In other words, God intends and expects his purposes to be accomplished because we have prayed for them.  He commands us to pray so that we can see the fulfilment of those prayers as he accomplishes his will.   When we pray and see those prayers answered, we are then amazed to see God work, we are humbled to realize that such was God’s will all along, and we are blessed that it was his purpose to include us – and our prayers – in making his will come about.

Because of this, it is also the purpose of prayer to build our faith.  There is simply no denying the truth that when our prayers are answered, our faith is strengthened.  God is gracious to do this for us.  Indeed, this may be the very reason that he commands us to pray and that he involves us in the accomplishment of his purposes.  God does this in much the same way that a loving mother or father would involve his or her child in an activity to build the child’s confidence.  They are included, knowing that they neither need the child to do the task nor will the child really contribute substantially towards the final success of the task.  However, the parent understands the important of building confidence in the child and the benefit of bringing joy to the child. The parent knows the impact will have on their character – and skill – development.  As a loving Father, God does the same for us. He understands that including us in his purposes will build both our faith and our spiritual character.  He also knows, and is pleased by, the joy and blessing that it brings to us as well.  Just as the child gets great joy working with his or her parent, so we get a blessing when God works through our prayers to accomplish his purposes.

Furthermore, prayer gives us an outlet for our deep, intimate burdens.  Every prayer is not necessarily a supplication or petition.  Some of our prayers are simply emotional in nature.  We need someone to go to with whom we can share our burdens.  Jesus says in Matthew 11:29-30, “Take My yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  This is Jesus’ call to cast our burdens upon him.  As it says in Psalm 55:22, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee.”  Sometimes, we simply need to call upon God to sustain us.  We need to cast our burdens on him and cry out emotionally to him.  There is no denying the spiritual and emotional relief we experience when take advantage of this benefit and purpose of prayer.  Many of the Psalms were written for precisely this purpose.  They were prayers that shared the psalmist’s deepest emotional pains with God.

The final, but certainly not the least important, purpose of prayer is to bring our will into conformance with his will.   Think for a moment about the way in which God answers prayer.  God certainly answers every prayer of the saints, but he does not necessarily grant every petition of the saints.  In other words, the answer to our prayers is not automatically “yes”.  Could you imagine the world-wide chaos that would result if God consented to every petition we made of him?  Have you ever prayed for something in a moment of emotional crisis that later you regretted?  Perhaps later you were grateful that it did not come about?   Sometimes God says “no” to our petitions and sometimes he says “not now” to our requests.  

Sometimes we keep praying the same thing over and over but God keeps saying no.   Why would he do that?  He says “no” because sometimes what we are praying for is outside of his will.   Likewise, why does he sometimes say “not now”?    He may say “not now” because either (a) we are not ourselves ready to have the prayer answered, or (b) the timing is not right for that prayer to be answered.  Indeed, sometimes it is for both reasons.   If we continue to pray for something long enough, understanding that one of the purposes of our prayers is to conform our will to his will, often times the process of praying begins to change our thinking and our prayers begin to change along with it.  The result is that ultimately our will come in line with his will.  Therefore, one of the goals of our prayers should always be to conform our will to His will.  That is why the Lord’s Prayer says “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”


The Effectiveness of our Prayers


We just discussed the horror that would occur if every one of our prayers were answered exactly as we prayed them. However, in our hearts, we cannot deny that we would really prefer that he did precisely that.  To overcome this failure on our part, we need to change the expectations of our prayers.  Rather than have all of our prayers answered the way we want them to be answered, what we really should be expecting is for our prayers to be effective.  We should shift our expectations to be sure that what we are praying for is the right thing – the thing that God wants more than what we want.  Then we can know that our prayers are accomplishing something important.  As it turns out, the Bible has a few things to say about how to make our prayers more effective.

First and foremost, our prayers must be fervent.  James 5:16 says that “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”  To be fervent in our prayers means that we have great intensity of feelings and emotions regarding our prayers.  This does not mean we babble and repeat ourselves over and over – Jesus warned against this in the Sermon on the Mount.   However, it does mean that we pray from our heart and mean what we pray.  Instead, sometimes our prayers are somewhat mundane or even habitual.  That is the antithesis – the exact opposite - of fervent prayer.  Our prayers ought to be filled with passion and emotion regarding the thing for which we pray.  Think about the disciples in Acts 12:5.  Herod had just killed James. Peter, the leader of the church, was in prison awaiting the same fate.  It was a very serious situation, and Acts 12:5 says that “prayer was made without ceasing by the church unto God for him.”  Do you think those prayers were habitual or mundane?  Of course not, they were filled with emotion and intensity.  They were fervent.  If we are not willing to be fervent in our prayers – that is, if we are not filled with passion about what we are bringing before God – why should we be surprised that our prayers are ineffective?  God knows our heart and he knows we really do not mean what we pray.  Until we get on board with God and get passionate about what he wants to do through our prayers, our prayers will never be effective.

Related to the issue of our prayers being fervent is the issue of our own righteousness.  If we want our prayers to be more effective, then we must be righteous ourselves.  James 5:16 tells us it is the fervent prayer of a righteous man that accomplishes much.  1 Peter 3:12 tells us that “the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.”  Obviously none of us are truly righteous except as we are granted righteousness from Christ.  Indeed, through Christ, we are righteous.  However, even in the righteousness we have from Christ, we all sin – which is why we need Christ’s righteousness.   As we grow in Christ, we sin less, but never are we sinless.  That is why 1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleans us from all unrighteousness.   John was speaking to believers when he said that.   The consequence of sin is separation from God.  Without the righteousness of Christ, we would all be doomed to hell because of our sin.  However, even having been redeemed, there are consequences to sin in our life.  As a believer, sin still separates us from God – not that he leaves us or forsakes us, but that our relationship with him is strained because of our unrepentance.  Therefore, just as our sin hinders the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, our sin hinders the effectiveness of our prayers.   This is why Jesus taught his disciples in the Lord’s Prayer to pray that God would forgive their trespasses as they would forgive the trespasses of others.  He did not teach us to pray that way because we need it for our salvation.  He taught us to pray that way because God cannot listen to our fervent prayers unless we are repentant of the sin in our lives.  Such repentance, however, cannot be general.  Certainly, if we are unaware of any particular sin in our life, there is merit in praying more generally “forgive my trespasses.”   However, the very nature of repentance means that we must specifically call out our sin before God and agree with him that we are indeed sorry for having sinned in that manner.  When you pray, therefore, be certain to be specific in your confession of sin.

Finally, in order for our prayers to be effective, we must be sure that we are asking and praying in Jesus’ name.  We do this because that is how Jesus told us we would be effective.  In John 14:13-14, Jesus himself said “And whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If ye shall ask anything in My name, I will do it.”  Likewise, in John 15:16, he said “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit and that your fruit should remain, that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it to you.”  Unfortunately, many people have made two critical errors in reading those passages as it relates to applying them to our prayer life.  The first is to take the words “in my name” too frivolously.  The second is to put too much emphasis on the word “anything” and not enough emphasis on the words “in my name.”   Culturally, at least in Western culture, “in Jesus’ name” has become an almost meaningless prayer signature – a way to end a prayer just to be sure we are praying in Jesus’ name.  We often say those words at the end of our prayers without even thinking about what the words actually mean – “in Jesus’ name, Amen.”  There is danger in that as we shall see in a moment.   On the other side, however, we sometimes try to claim the promise of “ask anything” without understanding what it means to ask in Jesus’ name.  We ask for things without considering whether or not they may be good and beneficial towards accomplishing God’s purposes.   This, too, is dangerous.  In both cases, the result can be an ineffective prayer life.

To pray in the name of Jesus is actually a very serious thing.  To pray in the name of Jesus is actually to say you are praying as his representative.   In olden days, whenever a king would have an important message to deliver, he would send an emissary.  That emissary would deliver the message “in the name of” the king.  He would often begin by saying, “I come in the name of King SoandSo” (or whatever the king’s name may have been).  Essentially, when you pray in Jesus’ name, you are saying that you are speaking for Jesus as if Jesus himself is the one who is delivering the message.  You are just his emissary.  If we were to truly understand this and recognize it when we pray, it would forever alter our prayer life.

In context, John 15:16 is actually a passage where Jesus is speaking to his disciples about obeying his commands.   His promise that God will give them anything they ask in his name is in the context of their carrying out Jesus’ mission – doing his will.  This brings up another very important point about praying in Jesus’ name.  In addition to recognizing that praying in Jesus’ name means praying on his behalf, we also need to recognize that praying in Jesus’ name ought to be done in the context of being obedient to the commands of Jesus.  

Not every prayer, however, is in the context of carrying out the commands of Christ.  That is not to suggest that we should NOT pray every prayer “in Jesus’ name,” but rather to point out that many of our prayers – as we have already discussed – are more personal in nature.  What does it mean, therefore, to pray in Jesus’ name when the point of the prayer is personal?  It means that we recognize Jesus’ sovereignty over our lives and acknowledge that regardless of our emotions or our struggles or our personal desires, that we desire God’s will more than our own will.  We already mentioned above that one of the purposes of prayer is to conform our will to God’s will.  It is fine to share our deepest emotional desires with God, so long as we acknowledge and are willing to be submissive to his will over our own will.


Tips For Praying More Effectively


Much of what will be in this section is somewhat of a duplication of what has been included in other courses in the Designs For Hope Pastor Training Network.  However, it is important that we remind ourselves regularly of both the importance of as well as tips for praying more effectively.


Learning to Pray.  It should not be a discouragement to you if you feel like your prayer life is not what it should be.  Some people honestly admit that praying is difficult for them.  We need to remember that prayer is not something we just automatically know how to do.  It is a learned skill.   Luke 11:1 teaches us two important facts about prayer:  (a) John taught his disciples to pray, and (b) Jesus’ disciples had to be taught to pray.  In teaching them to pray the Lord’s Prayer – or the Model Prayer as some call it – Jesus was not teaching his disciples to necessarily repeat that specific prayer, but rather to use it as a guide for the kinds of prayers or the things we might include in those prayers.  In following that pattern, we can learn about the importance of certain elements of our prayers.  A number of these we have already discussed, but here they are together:


·      Praise, Adoration, and Thanksgiving:  Every prayer should begin with acknowledging God for who he is.  We can worship him in our prayers and we can thank him for the many blessings he has given us.


·      Acknowledge God’s Will in all Things: We should not be afraid to be completely honest with God.  After all, he already knows our deepest thoughts anyway.  However, it is important to openly acknowledge God’s will in our prayers.  More than that, we should pray that his will be accomplished above our own will.  This is essentially an act of submission and surrender that, in its own way, acknowledges the sovereignty of God.  In a sense, acknowledging God’s will is an act of worship.


·      Asking For Daily Needs: Jesus never taught that we should ask God for everything we want, although there is certainly nothing wrong with that if we are willing to acknowledge God’s will in all things.  Instead, what he taught was that we should ask God for our daily needs and should do so without hesitation or reservation.  For some, this may mean asking for food to survive the day.  For others, it may mean asking for emotional strength to survive the day.  But all of us need Christ in some way every day.  We need to acknowledge that and seek from him that which we need for today.  Certainly, he already knows our daily needs, but to ask God to help meet those needs is an acknowledgement of our dependence upon him for even our most basic necessities.


·      Seek and Give Forgiveness: We have already seen how unrepentant sin in our lives can hinder our prayers.  Meaningful and specific confession, therefore, must be a regular part of our prayer life.  Just as important, however, is our own forgiveness of others.  Jesus tells us to ask for the same measure of forgiveness that we give to others.  That ought to encourage us appropriately to be extremely forgiving towards others.


·      Protection and Deliverance from Evil:  Perhaps an area some of us may forget to pray at times is for God to lead us away from temptations and to deliver us from the influences of Satan.  God has promised us in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that with every temptation, an escape has already been provided.  It is up to us to first of all ask for help in finding that escape and then actually taking advantage of it.


It is important to note that intercession (that is, praying for the needs of others) was not specifically a part of what Jesus included in the Lord’s Prayer.  However, that does not mean that intercession for others should not be an important component to our prayer life.  Jesus himself prayed an intercessory prayer not only for the disciples, but also for all the saints in John 17.  Paul mentions in many of his letters how he interceded for them in prayer.  In fact, Paul commands us to intercede in prayer for each other in 1 Timothy 2:1.  The fact, therefore, that intercession was not specifically included in the Lord’s Prayer just reinforces that the Lord’s Prayer is an example or model and not a specific prayer that we should pray regularly.  By the same token, that also means that intercession should be a regular part of our daily prayer life.


These are essentially the building blocks of our prayer life.  Sometimes we may include all of them in our prayers.  Sometimes we may include only one or two of them.  However, together they teach us the important things we need to include regularly in our prayers to God.


There are also some other things you can do to improve your prayer life as well.  These are useful regardless, but are especially useful if you tend to struggle with your prayers.  First, trying writing down your prayers.  Essentially, you would be journaling your prayers.  You can either write down your thoughts (i.e., your requests) in bullet form, praying over them as you write them down; or literally write down exactly what you would like to say to God.  This can be a very effective way of organizing and concentrating your thoughts and attentions on prayer.  It will take considerable time and effort on your part, but it can be very rewarding.

You can also consider praying the Psalms.   Many of the psalms were written as prayers and when you read them, you might find that they say exactly what you are already thinking or feeling.  If you can find such a Psalm that is appropriate for your situation, you can read and focus on the text of the Psalm as if they were your very own prayer.  Praying the Psalms is also a really good way to experience personal worship in your prayers.  Many of the Psalms are essentially worship songs, and since praise and worship ought to be a regular part of our prayer life, including these Psalms in our prayers can be very rewarding as well.  Of course many of the Psalms are very specific.  Not every Psalm will necessarily be appropriate for your prayer life.  Opening up your Bible and randomly picking a Psalm during your quiet time will not necessarily result in finding a useful Psalm to use for prayer. For this reason, if you would like to use the Psalms in your prayer life, you will need to spend at least some time studying the Psalms, identifying which Psalms work well for prayers of various situations and which ones do not – a worthwhile Bible study effort even if you choose not to use them in your prayers.

When all else fails, pray the Lord’s Prayer itself.  This prayer is often used in liturgy and can be used in personal prayer as well.  Of course the purpose of the Lord’s Prayer was to teach us how to pray, not to be our sole or primary prayer.  Therefore, while it is certainly beautiful, is a wonderful corporate worship prayer, and can be used in personal prayer when you might otherwise be struggling to focus your prayers, the Lord’s Prayer would not be recommended as the entirety of your normal or regular prayer life.  To do so would be to miss out on an unspeakable intimacy with the Father Creator that is the result of an effective prayer life.


In conclusion, there is one more question that we need to address regarding our prayer life.   When and how often should we pray?  This can be a very difficult question to answer if you consider prayer as a discrete event that happens at a specific time during the day.  For example, according to Islamic law, a Muslim is expected to pray five times per day.  Are there similar expectations for Christians?   When we examine scripture, we get no clear answer, although we have a number of examples.  The gospels speak often of Jesus getting up early in the morning to pray, but it does not specifically say how often he prayed.  In general, the Jews had two very specific prayer services – a morning and an evening service – in which they recited the Shema Prayer.  The Shema Prayer comes directly from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 – “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”  However, that does not mean they did not regularly engage in prayer at other times.  For example, we know from the book of Daniel that Daniel prayed 3 times per day.  Similarly, Paul spoke on numerous occasions of praying “night and day,” but that is most likely an idiomatic phrase speaking of being in regular prayer rather than being a literal or specific formula for when to pray.

The real answer to the question is that we are to come to a place in our lives where we are doing as Paul commands in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 – that we pray without ceasing.  On several occasions – specifically Romans 1:9 and 2 Timothy 1:3 - Paul specifically speaks of his own prayers as being without ceasing.  What, however, does it mean to pray without ceasing?  Does it mean that we are literally to be in prayer 24 hours per day –that is, that we forego all other activity, go into our prayer closets, close our eyes (if that is how you pray) and literally never cease to speak with God?  Of course not - that would be impossible.  Instead, to pray without ceasing is reflective of both an attitude of continual prayer as well as an intimate relationship with God.   Imagine spending your entire day, every day, with the same person.  Although you may be spending all of your time with this person, you will not literally be talking to them 24 hours a day.  You will, however, be talking with them regularly throughout the course of the day.  As situations both great and small arise, the natural response will be to discuss the matter with your companion.  You would not even really have to think about it.  Sometimes it will be important conversation.  At other times it will be simple small talk.  Why should the same be any different with God?  Is it not true that God is that constant companion?  We have living within us the Holy Spirit – God Himself in the form of the third person of the Trinity.  The Holy Spirit never leaves us.  He is with us always.  Why, therefore, is it not just a natural part of our daily walk to be in constant fellowship – including regular, one on one communication – with him?  Why shouldn’t we have “small talk” with God the same way that we have important conversation with him?  That should be the goal of our prayer life – not to have more impressive prayers, not to have longer or better sounding prayers, but to simply recognize that God is with us and to realize that we have access to him 24 hour a day, 7 days a week.  He is within us and we are in him.  When we come to this realization and understanding, we will become more intimate with God and grow closer to him through our prayers.