Prayers should be thanks, not theatrics

By Debra Whittington

“Pray without ceasing.”
— 1 Thessalonians 5:17

After our food was delivered to the table in the restaurant, my friend and I joined hands and said a prayer giving thanks for the food provided. We thanked the Lord for the safe trip and asked for guidance and protection for the trip home.
Our prayer wasn’t spoken in a loud voice, but just loud enough for the other to hear. We didn’t pray to draw attention to ourselves, but to voice our prayer of thanks to the Lord. We didn’t even think twice about praying before our meal as it comes as natural as eating it. Once, I even joked that the food wouldn’t taste as good if we didn’t pray first.
We enjoyed our food and conversation and were getting ready to leave when a man stopped by our table. He told us how much he appreciated seeing us pray out loud in a restaurant. I was so taken aback by his comment that I mumbled a thank you as he walked out.
When we stopped to pray, I never even thought that someone was watching us as — all our focus went into our prayer, not our surroundings.
In the days since, I thought not only about that man’s comment, but started examining my own prayer life that falls short of what it should be. Sure I pray a prayer of thanksgiving for my food. Even in circumstances where I can’t pray out loud, I bow my head and give thanks.
I thought about where I pray and how often I pray. When Paul said to pray without ceasing as he did in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, what did he mean exactly?
Once, I heard this explained as being in a constant attitude of prayer. We don’t necessarily have to be down on our knees to be praying, but can send short prayers heaven bound while driving, washing dishes, or any other activity during the course of our day.
I know there are many people who think the only place to pray is at church. Furthermore, they think only someone in authority should voice the prayer.
Once they leave church, all thought of prayer leaves with them.
The only exception to this rule is when they face a crisis and cry out to God for help.
There are basically three answers to prayer. Yes, no, and wait. The third answer is the hardest of all as sometimes it takes years for it to be answered. I know how frustrating this can be as I have prayed about a situation for almost two years.
Mark occasionally asks if I received an answer to my prayer and each time I am heartbroken to tell him I still haven’t received any answer or any guidance which way to go next. Still, I proceed on faith knowing the Lord is at work even now lining everything out according to his will, not mine. When the answer comes, I know it will be in God’s perfect timing and perfect way.
Looking back over my life, there are many times when I was later glad the answer to a prayer was “no.” It was then that I was truly thankful for the Lord’s wisdom as I later saw how the Lord had a better plan for my life.
A few years ago, a movie came out in which the main character was given the ability by God to answer the prayers of all the people in the world. Now I realize some people may think this movie was not only irreverent, but down right sacrilege. Still, it made a point that man needs the guidance of the Lord when it comes to their prayers.
The main character decided to grant everything people asked for and the end result was total chaos on the Earth. He learned the hard way that God’s ways are always best and there can only be one God.
In another movie I saw, the main character was praying fervently and asked a priest if he was doing all he could to receive the answer he wanted. The priest told him that he learned two things in this life: There is a God and he wasn’t it.
I think the priest was trying to let him know that we can’t second-guess God because God has all the answers, not us.
Whether it is thanking the Lord for our food or seeking an answer to a situation that could change our lives forever, the time is always right to pray. No matter where you are, no matter if the prayer is silent or prayed out loud, we should remember to “pray without ceasing.”