Difficulty 2 – How long to Pray? Short or long?
We’ve already covered what Jesus said about long prayers in the Sermon on the Mount:
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. – Matthew 6:7-8
Yet, Paul reminds us in this verse:
“Pray without ceasing” – 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Again in Colossians 4:2 we read “Continue steadfastly in prayer….”
So should we pray all the time or not? If we simply consider the previous blog about prayer, we know that Jesus was not condemning public prayer, but long and empty prayers for the sake of personal gain.
The issue of how long a prayer should be is very simple: long enough. So how long is enough? First, let’s review what prayer is, it is a communication with, not a one directional speech to God. [And this is where I am also convicted.]
We are probably all quite decent at saying a “blessing” at a meal, but how good are we at saying a prayer?
In public, we rarely, IF EVER, pause to hear God respond. This just seems abnormal; I mean only in large church settings when the Pastor asks us to pray silently do we have public prayer with a chance to listen.
You may be asking at this point: What do you mean “listen for God to respond?”
Prayer is not one-way. It is a conversation with God. Jesus gave us an example of going off alone to focus on God specifically. He didn’t leave the presence of others just to be alone. Jesus went off to spend time with God in dialogue and communication. [Isn’t it interesting that even Jesus (as Son of God) felt it was important to spend time with God the Father].
Praying has been defined in a variety of ways by the secular world, but in a Christian context Prayer is dialogue and relationship with God; it has the power to change outcomes and attitudes. Prayer is about an interchange with our Father, not a one-way plea for help or blessings. This requires a bond that is stronger than just faith, but a desire to listen. One can have faith in God, but it takes trust in God to allow Him to work out the finer details.
Only through spending time with Him can we listen and identify those fine details. Ever hear that little voice in the back of your head? Maybe it’s God. Maybe it’s Satan. But either way, you have been influenced. The question is, are you blocking the influences of sin long enough to hear from God?
How long do you need to pray? I would have to agree with Paul: Pray without ceasing! It’s the best way to hear from God.
I have come to learn that prayer does not require seclusion (although it does help tremendously). Prayer doesn’t require closing of the eyes and bowing of the head. But it does require a subdued heart that is willing to listen and acknowledge God as creator, sustainer, and planner of our future. Are you willing to pray long enough to get guidance as you travel this road we call life?