Brethren, in addition to having a rich devotional life, we need to live a life of prayer if we are to experience revival.
The keynote quote for revival says: “A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs. To seek this should be our first work” (E.G. White, Review and Herald, 3/22/1887).
Here is a previously unpublished quote that relates to it:
The life of prayer is the strength of true godliness.
— E.G. White, Letter 28, 1907
We should zealously seek after this experience with God, for this is the very strength of our first and greatest need, being true piety, or godliness. Outward reforms will not hold or even be desired unless we have a revival of our prayer life. Then shouldn’t we seek this first before anything else? Will you have a life of unbroken communion with God? Then start right now and keep pleading with God for it until it is habitual, for it is the life of your soul.
Breathing Unceasing Prayer
I’ve talked a lot about sacrificial love lately, as well as holiness, and the topic of prayer follows the same theme. This is the most important thing there is! And yet how much do we hear presentations on prayer, specifically the praying without ceasing experience? A revival of true godliness is our first and greatest need, and prayer is the strength of it, so should we not be striving for it and having this experience first before all else?
Prayer is not merely something you say to God and end with an ‘Amen’; prayer is a way of life. Sister White says to “let every breath be a prayer” (Ministry of Healing, p. 510). This obviously doesn’t mean saying something under every breath. Some of prayer is listening, as she says a couple paragraphs before that: “Christ is ever sending messages to those who listen for His voice.” Prayer also involves Christians to “set the Christ always before them.”
This is to be our unceasing life experience, as it is written, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Unceasing prayer is the unbroken union of the soul with God, so that life from God flows into our life; and from our life, purity and holiness flow back to God. There is necessity for diligence in prayer; let nothing hinder you.
— Steps to Christ, p. 97
This explains how every breath is to be a prayer. Inhaling represents our receiving the messages and the eternal life therein that He sends to us, while exhaling represents our service we return to God for the graces we receive. Our service can be in the form of just a mental attitude while we are working that we are doing it unto the Lord. This we should have all the time. It can also be in words of prayer here and there throughout our work while we are listening, with the primary purpose of our petitions being towards the end of rendering better and more well-pleasing service to Him. The worship of praise and thanksgiving is also service to Him. So, we do not need to think or these things each time we inhale and exhale, though it will help us to think of it periodically; we only need to be praying in and praying out what each breath symbolizes in our prayer life. Breath represents our life, and this is to be our entire life; and the best part of all is that there is nothing more joyful!
We have read that the life of prayer is our strength, and yet it is also written, “The joy of Jehovah is your strength.” These statements are not contradictory; they both describe the one and the same experience. We can smile in every trial, and throughout our labors of toil, in the knowledge that we are doing well-pleasing service to Jehovah. “Serve Jehovah with gladness” (Ps. 100:2)! His service is a joy, because we love whom we serve and it has eternal benefits and results! Serving self is a continual burden, because of our high expectations that we can never fulfill; the wages are death. In the flesh, we always crave either what we cannot attain or what is forbidden. We expect nothing to go wrong and never be injured by mistreatment or mistakes. But we do not live in a utopia; we are in the school of the Messiah. We must learn to serve God in adversity as well as prosperity. Eternal life is a life of service. We grow into it now, so that it will be pure throughout eternity. In serving God, there is joy and satisfaction, because He has realistic expectations of us and gives us all that we need to fulfill them; also because how people treat us, our past failings, or misfortunes will matter little to us since all that really matters is why we live: to do well-pleasing service unto God.
How to Live the Life of Prayer
The recipe for praying without ceasing can be simmered down to this:
Joyfully serving Jehovah,
while looking and listening to Him,
sprinkled with praises, petitions, and thanksgivings.
What we need to realize is that in any given moment, we are either living in pride or in prayer. Each and every moment of our lives was purchased by the Son of God at the cross for His Spirit to live out His life of righteousness in us.
Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own.
— 1 Corinthians 6:19
This is why prayer must be unceasing. By natural default, we are living in pride. Why is this? Because if we are not joyfully serving God, we are serving self, living to please self. Without praises to God for who He is, we praise ourselves. Without petitions to God, we are proudly depending on ourselves. And without thanksgivings, we will be proud of our accomplishments. And where there is pride, there will be impatience and other sins. But where there is prayer, there will only be cheerful obedience and thankfulness, with a complete absence of murmuring and complaining.
How are we when we are on the computer? Do we enter into an artificial world without God? Do we go to a new screen without any thought of God? Do we run a Google search without inquiring first of God? This was my greatest barrier in my prayer life. Then I would get off the computer and still not be praying, because I had stopped for however long I was on the computer.
The artificial technology we have can be a great hindrance to knowing God, yet if we habitually come to keep Him before us in whatever we are looking at or doing on an electronic device and holding communion with the Lord Jehoshua in what we are interacting with before us—inquiring of Him, commenting to Him, petitioning Him—we will not lose our connection with God in technology but instead strengthen it. If we consistently pray or think of God when we go to any new screen or any new interaction with someone, we will quickly develop habitual connection since screen changes can be so frequent. It just means putting a lot of effort into it the first several days (if we spend a lot of time in technology) or weeks (if not). Habit is developed by simple repetition.
Below are some of the practical ways to live a life of prayer that I’ve gleaned and am developing in my habits. I’m sure there are more than this, but these ideas are a good start; and please comment if you have any other ideas:
- In everything give thanks.
1 Thessalonians 5:18; Psalm 113:3; 5MR 118.2
- In everything you do, send up petitions for wisdom and strength, consecrating it to God, and carry out every duty as an offering to God.
John 15:5; ST 8/7/1884, par. 13
- Stand in the gap and intercede. Pray for each person that you think about or engage with during the day. Focus on different people groups according to the days of the week. Here is an example: (1) brothers in the Messiah, (2) sisters in the Messiah, (3) family, (4) friends, (5) neighbors, (6) civil leaders and (7) spiritual leaders.
- Praise God—as you look for and live for His glory, especially when in hardship (viewing such times as opportunities to praise Him more).
Psalm 117; Psalm 140
- Claim Scriptures and promises, living by every word of God. Recite them off and on throughout the day.
Matthew 4:4; YI 7/28/1892, par. 4
(You might carry Scripture cards in your pocket and pull one out as you have free moments. We make cards from the Scriptures that stick out to us during our devotional readings.)
- Frequently call upon the powerful Name of the Messiah as you have need, and ask Him to live His life in you. Remember that His life is already yours (Heb. 7:26)!
1 Corinthians 1:2; Romans 10:9; Philippians 2:9
- Say “I will” statements based on God‘s Word.
Lt 14, 1884, par. 15-17
- When you are tempted or having a difficult time overcoming something, agonize with God in prayer, even if it means into the night or fasting.
Lt 7a, 1886, par. 12
- Sprinkle the Lord‘s prayer throughout the day – a default prayer if you can think of nothing else, but a very glorious one.
Ms 222, 1902, par. 2; RH 1/3/1907, par. 5
- Spend time in nature, God‘s handiwork, communing with Him there.
BEcho 8/7/1899, par. 4
- Feel after God by searching for Him—in the Word, in nature, and in all of life’s events—acknowledging Him as you find Him. See Him in all things. Listen for Him.
MH 58.3; Acts 17:27; Jer. 29:13; Ed 102, 120; 5T 651.3
- And when you’re not speaking or listening, simply have an awareness of His presence and of His angels.
- Let your mind meditate on the Messiah on the cross, the Messiah in the sanctuary, and of heaven/eternity. Also, meditate on how the Messiah would live His life in you.
CE 57.1; 3SP 168.1; ST 12/8/1890, par. 3
- Discern the Messiah‘s body in every meal, partaking of His life that is in your food as a shadow of His spiritual life; this principle also applies to drinking water, breathing fresh air, and absorbing sunshine, since the life of God is in it all.
1 Corinthians 11:29; DA 660.3; Ed 197.5.
- Bless mankind and to be one with your brothers and sisters in the Messiah, thus fulfilling the Messiah‘s prayer and will for you.
5T 633.3; 20MR 343.4; 15MR 88.2
This is all in addition to having formal prayers at your evening, morning, and midday worship times, if not also at the third and ninth hours, where you kneel and pray with uplifted hands and eyes, entering the Most Holy Place by faith to meet with the King of Kings, with all solemn reverence. During the day, it is instead like sending telegrams via the angels, thus not requiring you to pray in the same formal manner. Your prayers might often be very short sentences that you dart off, or even a few words you speak to your own soul in the spirit of prayer as the psalmist did.
Prayer Means Sacrifice
Prayer, especially of praise and thanksgiving, is described in the Bible as sacrifice: “By [the Messiah] therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His Name” (Hebrews 13:15).
Prayer is sacrifice because it means giving up all of our time and mental powers to be used for God‘s glory from whatever we were used to doing before that. We have everything to gain from it, but it is still sacrifice and takes dedication and diligence. In light of all this, before we do a new task, we should offer it up to God in prayer, asking for His wisdom and strength to cheerfully do whatever it is with efficiency and excellence that He may be glorified.
Everything we do will thus have meaning and will be done unto the Messiah in sacrificial love. With this mindset, with this life of prayer, there will be no thought of complaint, because our minds will not be on ourselves since we are doing everything for God, not ourselves or our boss or our ministry or our family. God alone is to be kept before us continually, and this love for God will flow out in love for others and they will see God‘s character shining through us. This is also a life of faith, because while living in this world of things seen we are dwelling on the things unseen – God, the Lamb, the angels, and heaven. So, may our thoughts only run in heavenly channels through prayer. It is an amazing, gratifying life and our full potential will be realized.
Let us practice, practice, practice in the fear of the Messiah and for His honor and glory. This is something we must really strive for. He will help us, but only if we are putting effort into it, showing heaven that this is really the life we want to live; and it is to be our whole life – the life of prayer. I hope this will be a real blessing to you.
A Final Word from the Spirit of Prophecy
I quoted a single sentence from this letter earlier; now I want to share with you the whole paragraph. Really absorb this divine counsel, friends.
A life of true piety is a life of constant usefulness. The work must be accomplished through faith and prayer. This is the subject that stirs my soul to its depths. The life of prayer is the strength of true godliness. Our faith must be revealed to the world as a living, acting faith, bringing in its train all the Christian graces. The great and glorious work committed to us in acting a part in the plan of salvation is wonderfully high and exalted. We cannot weigh its merits. We are to walk by faith; and as we strive to appreciate the possibilities, and realize the immensity of the plan of salvation, it is our privilege to pray with the apostle Paul, that we may be able to “comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of God, which passeth knowledge.” Lift Him up, the Man of Calvary. Let the mind dwell upon the beauties of His character, until by beholding, you become changed into the same image. A life of prayer and faith will lead us to speak of His praise and tell of His power.
— E.G. White, Letter 28, 1907
The Mystery of the Mirror
Finally, to help you, in a very practical way, with beholding the Messiah throughout the day, if you have not done so yet, please read and meditate on the short article called “The Mystery of the Mirror.” This mirror concept is at the very heart of the gospel but it is a mystery to many, because it is often missed. So, please don’t miss that.