The Ones Who Pray All the Time

For dinner that night, I’d roasted potatoes and seared some spicy chicken (which my seven-year-old deemed way too hot). Before we ate, we grabbed hands as my husband, William, prayed. He mentioned some news of the day in his prayer, things we wanted to remember before the Lord. A couple from church had suddenly lost an adult child that morning, which I’d learned about through a heartbreaking phone call from the bereaved mother that afternoon. My husband prayed, his voice tightening, then breaking. It’s difficult to know how to pray for such a grievous loss.

After the “amen,” my teenager asked, “Now who are they again—the ones who lost their son?” I reminded him of their names; they’re relatively new to our church. I described their appearances and where they usually sat in the sanctuary, but he cut me off: “Oh, I know them. Are they the ones who pray all the time?

“Yes, that’s them,” I nodded. “They pray with anyone and everyone at a moment’s notice.” I paused and looked at my husband. “Wow, that’s how I’d like to be known . . . the one who prays all the time.”

Pray Now, Pray Later

Dinner continued with its usual rhythms of laughter, reminders to eat vegetables, some Bible reading, prayer, and a bit of Scripture memory. We cleared the table, and I washed the dishes before we headed outdoors for an evening walk. But my son’s description of the couple from church knocked around my brain all evening; his comment was both accurate and telling.

The first Sunday I met this couple, we were preparing for my son’s spine surgery. I introduced myself to them in the hallway, and after we chatted a bit, they each grabbed one of my hands and prayed over me as people milled around us. They prayed for the impending surgery, the stress and exhaustion that would follow, loving me—someone they didn’t really know—through genuine intercession. I was warmed by their thoughtfulness, bolstered by their intentional prayer. They oozed with joy, and I was caught wonderfully off guard by their kindness.

That wasn’t an isolated incident. I’ve seen them do this for many others at church. They say they will pray for you, and then they pray for you. Right then and there. Theirs isn’t only a promise to pray later, though I know they will. Theirs is a promise to pray immediately. 

A couple of weeks ago, the wife came over for coffee and a chat. When she asked what the rest of my week looked like, I told her I’d be traveling to a speaking engagement. She immediately took my hand and prayed for my safety, for good recall, for certainty of God’s presence with me, and for the joy of the Lord to strengthen me. The words she prayed from Nehemiah 8:10 became the verse I would pray throughout my trip: “Lord, may Your joy strengthen me when I’m nervous, tired, discouraged.” Later, when I was on a plane heading home from my trip, I thought about how her Scripture-infused prayer had not only encouraged me in the moment but had also carried me through my travel and work with courage and confidence in the Lord’s strength.

Pray Better

I can’t think of a Christian I know who doesn’t want to be a better pray-er. If you’re like me, you harbor a tiny hope that time itself will transform you from a scattered emergency pray-er into a devoted intercessor. But as I’ve observed people (like this couple from church) consistently building their lives around the practice of prayer, I’m convinced that the only way to become devoted pray-ers is to devote ourselves to prayer, both immediately on the spot and later in private.

In his book on prayer, the late Tim Keller wrote that “in the beginning the feeling of poverty and absence usually dominates, but the best guides for this phase urge us not to turn back but rather to endure and pray in a disciplined way until . . . we get through duty to delight.”1 I’ve found that to be true in my own faltering efforts to talk to the Father. My prayers begin in a scattered manner as I seek to put my thoughts in order. It feels like—dare I say it?—work. (And it feels horribly wrong to call it such.) 

But I think Keller is right in his description. We feel our “poverty and absence” when we begin the work of setting aside our thoughts, to-do lists, and the running commentary that dictates how we spend our mental margin. To do nothing but sit before the Lord and order your thoughts, distilling everything down to one conversation with Him does feel like work at first. But then—it doesn’t. With regular time devoted to nothing but prayer, you’ll notice that the conversation begins to flow from your heart with more focus as it becomes less like fractured requests ricocheting between the distractions in your mind. Prayer does become a delight. Not magically. Not merely with time. But with prayer. Prayer itself will lead you to become a devoted pray-er.

Pray Continually 

Last week my husband helped set up the sound equipment for the memorial service for our friends’ son. After getting things in order and telling them goodbye, he walked to his car only to be flagged down by the husband. He caught up with William and—not surprisingly—asked if he could pray for William. And he did, right there in the parking lot, with his hand on William’s shoulder.

Paul exhorted believers to pray “without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17 esv), and while that might feel impossible, it is this practice of intentional prayer which not only increases your ability to pray with focus but also brings your heart and mind back to the Lord. Keller calls this “framing your day” in prayer.2 Our praying friends from church can’t keep the name of Christ from their lips. A simple conversation with them will quickly turn to praise and delight in Jesus. That contagious joy of theirs is grown through their devotion to prayer. This, I think, is the sweet fruit of praying without ceasing: delighting in Jesus.

“Are they the ones who pray all the time?” my son asked at dinner that night. Undoubtedly. What a way to be known!

A version of this article was first published at Used by permission.

After a scary health crisis forced Erin Davis to face her patterns of burnout and fatigue, God used His Word, specifically Psalm 92, to call her out of survival mode and toward actively pursuing a life of thriving. In the new season of The Deep Well with Erin Davis, you’ll journey together through Psalm 92, verse by verse. The full five-episode series is available now! Accept Scripture’s call to stop living in survival mode and thrive for the sake of the gospel. 

Timothy Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (New York: Penguin Books, 2014), 25.

2  Timothy Keller, Prayer, 245.

About the Author

Glenna Marshall

Glenna Marshall

Glenna Marshall is a pastor’s wife and mother of two energetic sons. She is the author of The Promise is His Presence, Everyday Faithfulness, and Memorizing Scripture. She writes regularly at on biblical literacy, suffering, and … read more …

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