by Tyler Arnold
A large group of teens wearing blue T-shirts screen printed with their church’s name filtered out of the amusement park and into the parking lot for a quick bite before heading back in for more rides and games. They all grabbed lunch from a cooler in the back of the church van and sat down to eat. The adult leaders were the last to join the big group.
One of the leaders rushed to reach the kids before they started eating and hastily asked, “Did you pray?”
One young man, a little louder than the rest of the group, shot back, “No, and I’m already done eating. Besides, I prayed yesterday.”
I chuckled a bit at the response, thinking he was joking. But then, when I saw that he wasn’t laughing, I realized he was serious. He had prayed yesterday, and for him that was enough. That should do it for a while. He should be good and topped up on prayer for the next few days or so.
Perhaps this raises the question for us: How often should we pray? How often should we ask the Lord’s blessings upon the food we eat, the people we care about, the activities we are involved with and the lives that we lead? When should we talk to God?
The simple answer to that last question is this: any and every time we get the chance. “Now” is always a good time to pray, because we are always in the presence of our Lord. “Now” is always a good time to pray, because our needs and the needs for others are continuously ever-present. “Now” is always a good time to pray, because every good and perfect gift flows from Him — everything belongs to our Lord.
Every “now” of our lives is a good time to pray, because the Lord tells us to pray and promises to hear our prayers. Jesus says in Matthew chapter seven, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone that asks, receives; and he that seeks, finds; and to him that knocks it will be opened.”
Many times we don’t think to pray when things are going well or when troubles seem far away. That young man at the amusement park, for example, was having a great time, without so much as a care in the world. He was happy and content with how his day was going. Troubles seemed nowhere near him. So why should he pray? Nothing severe was pressing — at least at that moment.
In Psalm 50 our Lord says, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; and I will deliver you and you will glorify me.” The “day of trouble” is always today. It may not be for you, but it surely is for others belonging to the Lord. The day of praise and thanksgiving is also today. Our Lord’s blessings for body and soul come each and every day — even at times when His favor seems distant. Whether we be content or troubled, each day is a good day to pray to the Lord who does all things well.
There are days when I have forgotten to pray. I’m sure you’ve had those days, too. So, what should you do? Set aside specific times during the day to talk to God about your needs and the needs of others. If you can’t find the words to pray, turn to the Psalms. The Psalms are prayers that speak directly to you as well as assist you in forming the words appropriate for your specific needs. Don’t be dismayed if you can’t find the words to pray. The Holy Spirit intervenes for you. St. Paul writes in Romans 8:26, “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” What a blessed comfort this is!
The Rev. Tyler Arnold is Sr. Pastor at Christ Lutheran Church — Platte Woods, Mo. He is also a Collegium Fellow for DOXOLOGY: The Lutheran Center for Spiritual Care and Counsel.