God calls all believers to pray, both privately and corporately. Because prayer is how we communicate with God, it involves every aspect of our life and our relationship with him. That covers a lot of ground. In fact, it has been suggested that our prayers are effective when they “cover” everything we do. While this serves as a good illustration, it has the effect of separating prayer from our specific endeavors, placing prayer over and above them.
And while it is a perfectly valid idea that prayer can serve as a protective cover, it also serves to undergird all we do, making prayers for guidance, planning, equipping and preparation equally vital before anything exists that might need to be “covered”.
Beyond the need to pray for the designing, creating, establishing and concluding of our personal and corporate ministries, prayer needs to be part and parcel of our routine efforts in the ongoing continuance of those ministries. In other words, there should be no separation, no compartmentalization between our prayers and our actions. We need to fully integrate our doing with our praying.
In this busy and often hectic age we are less prone to consider walking as an option for traveling to our various destinations than driving in a car or flying in an airplane. But the Bible was written before such conveyances were used. Walking was the most commonly relatable mode of transportation in those times. When 1 John 1:7 speaks of walking in the light, it refers to the ongoing fellowship we have with him as we abide in Christ, step by step as we move toward each goal and destination.
That sense of remaining in him as we move through each day means essentially the same thing as 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “pray without without ceasing”. This is perhaps difficult for some to understand because we tend to see prayer as stopping whatever we are doing in order to set the time aside to just pray, as opposed to incorporating prayer into whatever it is that we are doing.
We look at the model of Jesus, who often would go off by himself to pray, and we are tempted to think that’s the only way. While Jesus did teach against praying like the hypocrites but to pray “in secret” (Matthew 6:5-6), he also taught us to pray together. The “Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13) begins with Our Father, refers to our daily bread, our debts, our debtors, lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil. It is clearly intended as a corporate (not private) prayer.
This makes sense because in our walk with the Lord, he holds us accountable not only as individuals but also as his church (e.g. Revelation 2 and 3).
As we learn to begin, continue and finish all of our activities in prayer we come to be more open to the full spectrum of prayer. Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind for most people when they think of prayer is that it’s asking God for something, or telling him what we want. We do that not only for ourselves but we intercede for others whose needs we are aware of. When believers make specific requests of God, whether for themselves or for others, by themselves or joining with others, that’s called petitioning.
Yet there are many other ways to talk to the Lord as we walk in his light. Prayer can be simple fellowship with God – being aware of his presence and being open and receptive to him. As conversation with God, prayer can also be hearing him – if not his voice then perhaps the revelation of an insight or a particular verse of Scripture. Prayer can be worship in the form of praise, confession, glorification, adoration, dedication, thanksgiving, blessing and more. Prayer can be accompanied by the uplifting and infilling experiences of joy, hope, peace, love and reassurances without number that God gives us through our faith relationship with him.
Prayer – both private and corporate – can be a much broader and deeper part of the Christian experience than the obligatory ritual or religious habit that some apparently think it is. If we consider prayer as part of our ongoing step-by-step walk with the Lord, then just starting with prayer or just ending with prayer isn’t enough. Especially as a body, we can’t begin to have a relationship with God without communicating. The better we communicate, the more meaningful that relationship is. We need to begin, continue and finish everything we do in prayer.