I’ve recently been pondering the different approaches people have to prayer. For those who do practice communicating with God through prayer, I would suggest that most of us fall into one of three categories, if we’re honest. There may be more. There probably are. The goal isn’t to label ourselves, but just to raise awareness and challenge us to consider how we approach God. Here are the three I’ve been thinking about:
1. Crisis Pray-ers. These people view God as a 9-1-1 operator whom they only call when they find themselves in situations beyond their control in which they need help. When life is good, there is no need to call on God. But as soon as they feel the pain of having their plans messed up, or they get in a car accident, or a loved one dies unexpectedly, or a major catastrophe like 9/11 or a natural disaster happens, they begin to pray with great urgency.
2. Christmas Pray-ers. These people view God as Santa Claus whom they only reach out to when they want something. The content of their prayers is simply a wish-list for God. Whether it’s financial, relational, emotional, spiritual, or otherwise – they perceive something is missing from their life and their desire is for God to meet their wants and needs.
3. Constant Pray-ers. These people view God as a loving Father who wants to have a vibrant, personal relationship with them that is characterized by ongoing communication. All day long they are carrying on conversation with God about whatever they are going through. When things are good, they are thanking God. When things are difficult, they are seeking God for wisdom and strength. When things are confusing, they are asking God for clarity and discernment. When they are engaged in dialogue with other people, they are simultaneously praying, asking God what He has to say about what they are discussing, etc.
Our goal in prayer should be to be constant pray-ers. The Apostle Paul said, “Pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NIV). Another translation reads, “Pray without ceasing” (NASB). That doesn’t mean we walk around talking to God out loud all the time (although we are certainly encouraged to pray out loud in the Bible). The idea is to have an ongoing, continual dialogue with God in our hearts and minds all day, every day, about everything we are experiencing. Ephesians 4:6 says that God “is over all and through all and in all.” If that is true, then He has something to say about what we are encountering throughout our days, and since we don’t know it all, and He does, why not live in constant conversation with God, sharing our concerns, asking our questions, but most importantly, listening to what He wants to reveal to us about our lives in His world.