Why is it that some Christians succeed while others who make that profession of faith miserably fail? Why is it that some seem to run the race of life and cross the finishing line with flying colors, and others just collapse in a heap?
Because of choices. Decisions that people make each and every day. It comes down to this: We make our choices and our choices make us. The fact is, our lives overflow with choices. From the moment you get up in the morning till the time you lay your head down on your pillow at night, you have made hundreds, perhaps even thousands of choices.
That’s why it’s hard to go into certain restaurants, where the menu is like a novel. How can you ever decide on something? There are too many options.
My favorite hamburger place only has a few options. Hamburger. French fries. Soft drinks. Maybe a milkshake. That’s about it. You don’t have to waste a lot of mental energy trying to figure out what to order.
Some simple choices, of course, don’t seem to mean very much. Other choices mean everything. In fact, there are choices that will determine our destiny.
If we want to make headway in our life in Christ, we need to make a daily commitment to grow spiritually. To progress. To learn. Not just to “hold our own” or “dig in.” We need to gain ground every day.
If we want to grow spiritually, we must love, study, and read the Word of God. That’s essential. It’s a no-brainer.
But that’s not all.
We also need to pray.
“Always keep on praying…”
As the apostle Paul put pen to parchment in his lonely prison cell, he did some thinking about his friends at the church in Ephesus. He had developed a deep relationship with the church and wanted the best for their lives. Unsure of his own future, he wanted these men and women to succeed in their walk with Christ through the years. And he understood very well that one of the greatest keys to their success — in good times or times of great testing and trial — would be their prayer life.
In Ephesians 6:18 (NIV), Paul urges the Ephesians — and all of us to this day — to “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 saints.”
In other words, wherever we are and whatever we are doing, God wants us to be people of prayer. You can pray publicly or privately, verbally or silently, and any position is acceptable! You can pray kneeling, standing, sitting, lying down, and even driving. (Always keeping your eyes open, of course.)
In the end, it doesn’t really matter. You can pray anytime, anywhere, in the midst of almost any activity.
Sometimes we may think that God will hear our prayers better if they are offered in a place of worship. Again, that’s not true. He hears our prayers wherever we offer them.
Daniel prayed in a den of lions. David prayed in a cave, and also in the wilderness. Peter prayed on top of the water — and also in the water as he began to sink! Jonah prayed from the stomach of a fish. So, it seems to me that wherever you are, God will hear your prayer.
The key is that we should pray frequently. As Ephesians 6:18 shows us, we are to pray “on all occasions.” Morning. Noon. Afternoon. Evening. The middle of the night. Bottom line, the Bible tells us to “Never stop praying … for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, 18, NLT).
The Bible tells us in 1 Timothy 2:8 (NIV) “I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands.”
Pray everywhere. Should I ask the blessing of God on my meal when I’m out in public? Absolutely. We’ve all experienced that awkward moment when you’re out dining with family or friends who aren’t believers, and your meal arrives. You wonder, Should we pray? Because normally, that’s what you would do as a believer or as a Christian family. But what if it offends or turns off the non-believers present?
You know what I say? Prayanyway.
Often, I will initiate that prayer. I will simply say, “Let’s pray.”
When you pray, you have the floor; other people will generally listen. So you can say, “Lord, thank You for this food. You have provided it...” And then just go on from there.
But I would recommend that you keep it short and simple. Why? Because everyone wants to eat!
Sometimes we have the luxury of taking our time and praying like the prophet Daniel, three times a day before his open window. At other times, however, all we have time to do is shoot up a quick prayer — like an arrow pointed to Heaven. The Bible tells us how Nehemiah prayed a prayer like that. He was a counselor to Artaxerxes, king of Persia, standing in the king’s presence, when suddenly an opportunity opened up for him to bring up the plight of his fellow Jews, back in conquered Israel.
Should he do it? Was he risking his life? Nehemiah didn’t have time to go home, get on his knees, open the window, and pray to the Lord as Daniel had. He only had a moment. Should he speak? Should he remain silent? Shooting up a quick prayer, he went on to tell that powerful king everything that was on his heart. And the king responded with kindness and generosity (See Nehemiah 2:1-10).
It will be that way for us sometimes. We will find ourselves in a situation where we must make a decision immediately, and there isn’t time to lay out all the details before the Lord.
The boss calls. The police knock on your door. Your friend calls you in great need. The doctor comes in the room, looking grim. You find yourself in an emergency of some kind, and you have to make a decision or respond. So you say, “Lord, help me,” or “Lord, enable me,” and you take that next step.
You can pray a prayer like this with your eyes wide open. You don’t even have to verbalize it at all, unless you want to. God is there. God knows. God hears. God has a complete grasp on all the details — including a million angles you never thought of.
There is a sense in which we can pray continuously all day long. The Bible tells us that Elijah went into the court of King Ahab, a wicked man, and said, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand…” (1 Kings 17:1, NKJV).
In other words, Elijah was aware of the fact that wherever he went, he stood in the presence of God.
The fact is you are never alone. Wherever you go God is with you — and you can commune with Him, fellowship with Him, pray to Him, and hear from Him.
That’s the idea of continuous prayer: being in fellowship and communion with the Lord hour by hour, and even moment by moment.
I can’t think of a better way to live.
The Bible’s remedy for all of us in times of anxiety or concern is to pray. In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul gives us these strong words of encouragement:
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
These verses don’t say, “pray about everything and God will take your problems away.” No, but what He does promise us is His peace — right in the middle of everything.
Maybe God will take your problem away. That may be part of His plan. Then again, maybe He won’t. Because sometimes you will pray and pray and the problem will still be with you. But here is what happens: He gives you perspective right in the midst of it. You get a better view of what’s going on, who God is, and who you are. You will see your problem for what it is.
And you will be reminded that you are not alone. Not even for a minute.
Greg Laurie is the pastor and founder of the Harvest churches in California and Hawaii and Harvest Crusades. He is an evangelist, best-selling author and movie producer. “Jesus Revolution,” a feature film about Laurie’s life from Lionsgate and Kingdom Story Company, releases in theaters February 24, 2023.