This past spring as I was planting annuals in my backyard, I was overcome with an urge to pray for a friend. I didn’t know of any specific needs she had right then, so I just prayed generally and genuinely for her and her family. Then I threw my gardening gloves in the dirt, grabbed my phone, and sent a quick text to let her know. Her response took my breath away.
“Thank you, friend. We’ve been dealing with a crisis that you don’t know anything about. But the Lord does, and I’m so thankful He prompted you, and you responded.”
Instantly, I was filled with realizations, praise, and deep humility. God knew my friend’s need so intimately that He prompted me to pray even though I knew nothing of her specific need. I was obedient to that prompting and was able to bring my friend and her family to the Throne without a single specific request. My obedience to that prompting was kind of “run of the mill” at first. But with my friend’s response, I was sent back to my knees in praise and awe of our holy, omniscient, loving Father.
The Value of an Immediate Response
A child of God should most definitely be setting aside regular, purposed, and focused times of prayer. We see that kind of prayer modeled all throughout the Bible—even by Christ Himself. But there is also value in the immediate response, when praising, crying out, confession, or seeking wisdom in prayer is a key part of our immediate reaction to an event, thought, or feeling. Combining these two ways of praying—both the set-aside and immediate response—will work to accomplish the “pray always, without ceasing” goal laid out for us by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 and Ephesians 6:18.
I have not always had the good habit of stopping and praying, and I’m still developing it. But over the years—as effective and powerful prayer has been modeled to me—I have seen and experienced the discipline of stopping and praying. I’ve watched as one person prays for another after a prayer request is shared. Right there, out loud. As a friend has hugged me goodbye and whispered a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing over me. As I’ve listened to one of my mentors reading Scripture out loud, and she stops to pray those same words as a plea to the Lord.
There are all sorts of opportunities to stop and pray where you are:
- When someone asks you to pray for them, do it right then with them and later on your own.
- As someone is telling you about a difficult or painful situation, ask her to stop at a few different points and pray for that specific part of the situation before she goes on.
- When you hear an emergency vehicle, pray for everyone involved—the first responders and those they’ll be helping.
- When you see or read something that causes joy, thankfulness, or praise, stop and speak that praise and thankfulness to God.
- When you see or read something that causes anger, disgust, or sadness, stop and tell God your response. Ask for His perspective.
When you’re faced with a trigger to sin, pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to allow you to flee that temptation. Better yet, pray a “trigger verse” to fully submit to that power. Mine is 1 Thessalonians 5:23–24:
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it (emphasis added).
As you notice a picture of a family member or friend in your home, pray about a specific need or situation for that person.
Or like I did, when God brings someone to mind as you just go about your day, stop and pray generally or specifically for that person. Then if you can, let them know.
Prayer, like so many parts of the Christian life, is a process. It is not a box-checked, accomplished sort of thing. So if you seek to grow in the depth and breadth of prayer, consider the value of stopping and praying. Look for moments and opportunities to make prayer your immediate response. Take these small, intentional steps to seek the Lord.