The late Ray Stedman served as pastor of Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto, California, for many years. He once related a story told to him by a seasoned mariner who had navigated vessels around the world over a long career. The man had seen his fair share of surging seas and vicious storms. The old sea dog told of one particularly perilous storm when he didn’t know if anyone on his ship would make it back to shore. “Yes,” he sighed, “the Lord heard the voices of many strangers that night.”
As understandable as that is, the Christian ought never to be a stranger to God in prayer. Our voice in prayer should not be the voice of a stranger, but that of a child to a father. That is how Jesus cast prayer when he taught us to pray to our Father (Matt. 6:5-15) That is how Paul framed prayer when he taught that the indwelling Spirit causes us to cry, “Daddy” (Romans 8:14-16). Prayer for the Christian is like a child sharing his or her needs, love and questions with a parent. This adds fuel to the fire of our prayer life. As a father, God desires that we come to him anytime, anywhere, and about anything. As a child of God, regardless of the day or the need of the hour, it’s time to pray. Just as Jesus during his earthly ministry allowed the mothers to bring their children to Him that he might bless them, so we as His adopted children can approach Him at any time, and obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Matthew 19:14; Heb. 4:14-16; 10:19-23). Our Father in Heaven maintains an open-door policy for His needy children.
As God’s children, our prayer life should include everyday prayer. This is prayer that is regular and scheduled. This is prayer as a habit. We see this pattern of prayer in the life of Daniel as he prayed three times a day (Dan. 6:10; cf. Acts 3:1). We see this pattern in Psalms 3 and 4 which together bracket each day with morning and evening prayers (Psa. 3:5-8; 4:4-8). Prayer ought to be as fixed as our mealtimes are (Matt. 6:11)!
As God’s children, our prayer life should include D-Day prayer. This is prayer by force of a crisis. This is prayer that is fundamentally a cry for help in an emergency. It is Peter sinking beneath the waves (Matt. 14:30); it is Hannah in her barrenness (1 Sam. 1:10-11); it is King Hezekiah during the Assyrian invasion (2 Kings 19:14-19); and it is Jesus in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-46). This is prayer as a 911 call.
Finally, as God’s children, our prayer life should include through-the-day prayer. These are the email prayers we quickly shoot in God’s direction as we are in the midst of everyday things. This is praying without ceasing, and praying between breaths, sentences, chores, and appointments (1 Thess. 5:17). As with Nehemiah, it is talking to God and asking for His help, while you are talking to others about something important to you (Neh. 2:4). These are the prayers we mutter to God while we ski downhill through the day.
Don’t let prayer become a foreign language to you, and don’t be a stranger to God in prayer. Pray anytime, pray at crunch times, and have set times of prayer. It’s time to pray!