(4 minute read)
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV)
Each Tuesday morning I block off time to pray for the needs of First Baptist Church. Even if I have a morning appointment, my goal is to pray for two hours, bringing everything I can think of to God.
There’s a prayer practice I utilize that may seem strange to you, but I have found it to be very effective. It’s praying through the alphabet. I start with A and ask the Spirit of God to bring to mind those things for which I need to pray. I pray for church members whose names begin with A, for God’s help in reaching people in apartments, for angels to watch over our children. Then I move on to B — for more baptisms, blessings on our youth. Then comes C — college ministry. And so on.
J is an easy one, as some of our main church leaders are Jaynie, Jan, Jim, Josh, Judy, and Jake. Of course, there’s another J close to my heart.
I’ll admit, coming up with something for X and Z are tough.
But as I pray through the alphabet, I’m reminded that there’s nothing too big or small for God. Everything is a matter of prayer.
Sometimes I’ll pray for big things that seem to be overwhelming. I feel the burden of those prayers as I bring them again and again before God. Those big items especially help me to acknowledge my complete dependence on God for all things.
What does it mean to pray continually, if that doesn’t mean for all things?
George Müller believed that the vision to open orphanages was from God. He wanted to help children in need, but more than that, he wanted to offer “visible proof” to everyday people that God still answers prayer just like God does throughout the Bible.
So he took every need to God. He never asked another human being to supply what was lacking. Instead, he trusted that God would move people to give. He prayed for even the smallest of circumstances concerning the children’s homes.
There was one really big point of prayer that Müller neglected. He took it for granted that if a children’s home were created, there would be plenty of applicants.
When the time came to fill the first orphanage, there were no applications. Not one.
Müller says that this moment drove him to “lie low" before God in prayer and once again examine his motives for launching the home. Was it for his glory or God’s glory?
Having discerned that indeed the vision was from God, for God’s glory, Müller was brought to a place of peace “that I could say from my heart that I should rejoice in God being gloried in this matter, though it were by bringing the whole thing to nothing.”
In other words, Müller trusted that if after all of the prayer and preparations and plans, God purposed not to bring the homes into being, he would still trust in God and rest in the belief that God would be glorified to a greater degree.
We should certainly pray specifically. We need not wonder if God wants to bring prodigal sons and daughters home, or if God wants to grant us victory over temptation. Specific prayers flow from a life that entrusts everything to God. But having brought everything before God’s throne, we also need to learn to rest in God to work out, in God’s timing and way, what we pray for. We need to leave the outcomes in God’s hands. We need to give thanks no matter what happens.
As I read about this episode in Müller’s life, I wondered: do I have enough faith to trust in God even when circumstances don’t work out like I believe they should? Do I believe that in the moments when I am disappointed, God is receiving more glory than if God had granted my request?
In a short amount of time, the first applicant arrived at the orphanage. Soon a flood of applicants came such that people had to be turned away.
There must have been something God wanted to teach Müller. Perhaps God wanted Müller to acknowledge more fully all that God had done for far. Perhaps God wanted to keep Müller in a state of close fellowship so that pride wouldn’t enter his heart.
Habakkuk the prophet knew what it was to have faith even when the burden seemed overwhelming. “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18, NIV)
The laid low will always be lifted up by the strong arm of God.
The prideful, on the other hand, can expect to be taken down a few notches on the ladder. Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, while the humble will be exalted. This truth rests at the heart of God’s kingdom.
When you experience extreme hardship, failure, disappointment, or deep need, that’s the time to get in your private place of prayer and bring everything before God. That’s the time to lay low and seek the Lord. God will work on your heart, and when the work is done, you’ll be ready for the next level. Only God can raise you to that place after a time of preparation and purification.
Do you have a regular time each week to pray for our church?
Do you pray continually?
Do you pray about all things?
Prayer Principle #5: There’s nothing too big or small to bring before God.