Nehemiah 1:11 – “Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”
Nehemiah 2:4 – The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven
The scripture encourages us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) but what does that really mean? Surely Paul can’t mean that the church at Thessalonica is supposed to always be praying.. can he? As it turns out, that’s exactly what he means. The Greek word used for “without ceasing” is adialeiptōs which Strong’s Concordance defines as “incessantly”. Don’t you love when the translation of a word is another word that requires a Google search for context? Maybe that’s just me. Incessantly is defined by “without interruption”. The Message simply translate 1 Thessalonians 5:17: “pray all the time”.
So why is today’s focal verse Nehemiah 1:11 and Nehemiah 2:4 if I’ve focused so much on 1 Thessalonians 5:17? Because this is a perfect, real example of this direction in action. The Art of Real Time Prayer simply refers to the behavior we learn as we mature in the Christian faith of praying and seeking God’s guidance throughout our day. Getting ready for an important meeting at work? Pray. Getting ready to wake the kids up for school? Pray. Having a heated moment of conversation with your spouse? Pray. Learning to seek God’s guidance and obeying Him when He speaks is important.
I once heard of a man who literally prayed over every decision of every day. What should he eat? What should he wear? Where should he sit in the restaurant? All decisions that have to be made but probably don’t require the type of prayer we are talking about. Burger King or McDonalds? Chances are likely God doesn’t care (not like my wife, He really doesn’t care). Should you share the Gospel with the restaurant employee who struck up a conversation with you? Pray (but the answer will almost always be a resounding “yes”).
In today’s focal Scripture we see Nehemiah who was in exile in Persia. The Jews had been taken into captivity and now lived in a foreign land because of their rebellion against God. Nehemiah was getting ready to have one of the most important conversations of his life, and with the earthly king of the Persian empire no less. Although Nehemiah had been praying for weeks, we see the Art of Real Time Prayer come in to play when Nehemiah says that he “prayed to the God of heaven”.
The challenge for today’s devotion is not only make specific, dedicated, daily prayer time where we seek God’s will for our lives but also praying real time. It isn’t either/or, but both and. We should be praying daily for our day and then throughout the day for God’s guidance. We must learn to seek God’s will throughout the day and obey Him when He speaks. Learning the Art of Real Time Prayer can help us be a more Christ honoring spouse, parent, friend, worker, and neighbor. As you prepare to pray today, I wonder: how many times are you seeking God’s will throughout the day? How many wrong choices could have been avoided if you’d spent just an extra moment to seek God’s will before you spoke or reacted? Confess that to Him today and ask Him to aide you in this learned behavior of “praying without ceasing”.
Father, we confess that sometimes we wait to seek Your will until it’s too late. Lord, we say or do things before asking for Your directive and it can end poorly. Help us to learn how to pray without ceasing. Help us learn the Art of Real Time Prayer in which we communicate with You throughout our day. Lord, we know our lives will be richer, more abundant when we seek and obey Your will throughout our day. Lord, please help us know when to pray, when to act, what to say, and how to react when You speak. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.