By Heather Riggleman, Crosswalk.com
In the third century, there was a desert father named Abba Paul who truly understood the benefits of prayer. While the other monks made their homes on the outskirts of cities in order to make a living selling woven baskets, Abba Paul lived further out in a remote area. Unlike the other monks who could sell their baskets in town, he had no way to make a traditional living for himself. Despite this major detail, Abba Paul collected palm fronds every morning and worked faithfully as if basket-making was his primary source of income. Each day without exception, he would work a day’s wage of creating baskets as he prayed. He prayed unceasingly. Each frond a woven prayer. And at the end of the year when his cave overflowed with a year’s worth of toil, he took a torch to the work of his hands and watched the flames devoured it all to ash. Ann Voskamp summed up this story best when she wrote “Prayer is not what we do before we work, nor is prayer what we do instead of work. Prayer is our life’s work.”
The more I think about this story, the more I wonder if my perspective on prayer has grown cold and stale. If you and I truly understood the benefits of prayer, perhaps we would be more apt to whisper what’s on our hearts fervently as we live out the gift of each day instead of working fervently to produce the work of our hands.
Is the work of our hands more important than the prayers of our hearts? What if our most important contribution to God’s kingdom and this world is our prayers instead of our contributions? What if we get to the end of our days and our life’s work burns like chaff?
“On the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames,” (1 Corinthians. 3:13-15). What if our life’s work is in our prayers instead of in our hands?
Whatever is on your to-do list today—whether it’s a sink full of dishes, endless data to enter into a spreadsheet on your desk, a homeschool lesson plan to teach, or a fussy child in your arms—God sees you. He appreciates the work of your hands, but He wants you to know that your prayers are far more important. He wants you to come to Him. Not only is He the Creator that wants to commune with His created—He wants us to reap the benefits of time spent in prayer. Here’s just a few.
Prayer Brings Us Closer to God
1 Thessalonians 5:17 exhorts us to “Pray continually.” Jesus set this example. Even though He was the Son of God, He slipped away often to pray. He goes off early in the day before anyone else is awake to notice Him, and He communes with His father. In fact, according to early Jewish-Christian tradition, Jesus often prayed at a small grotto near the Mount of Beatitudes. Towards the end of His ministry, Jesus prays, “Father, I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do,” (John 17:4). How could have Jesus known what He was meant to accomplish unless He communed with God?
When we pray, it deepens our relationship with God. It brings us closer to Him because He created us with a need to connect with Him. When we pray, we share our innermost being with Him. Through prayer, we are renewed and transformed because prayer is infused with His spirit.
Prayer Enables You to Set Your Mind on Things Above
Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your mind on the things which are above, not on the things which are on the earth.” The Greek word used for “set” in this verse, means “to seek after or to be intent on.” To set your mind on things above is to: Seek after what God desires and to look at life from God’s perspective. The best cure for worry, frustrations, temptations, and materialism is to seek God first. In exchange for the worldly things that plague us, God provides peace, joy, contentment, and endurance.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Prostock-Studio
Prayer Turns You from a Worrier into a Warrior
Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Worried? Who isn’t these days? The minute we wake up, we are bombarded with to-do lists, bad news, work, bills, and schedules. If left unchecked, our worry can turn into anxiety and raise our stress levels. But prayer can turn us from worriers into prayer warriors. Reflecting on our problems through prayer helps relieve the initial stress of the situation. Leaving our problems in God’s hands has been shown to improve stress levels because we know God’s shoulders are bigger than ours. The best part is that prayer is always available! Nothing can keep us from running to God with our problems except our own choices.
Prayer Inspires Hope
"...but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength; they will fly up on wings like eagles; they will run and not be tired; they will walk and not be weary." (Isaiah 40:31)
The Biblical definition of hope is assured expectations because anything that is built on less than God will always disappoint. Yet, God promises us hope. When we go to God in prayer, He reminds us of His promises. He reminds us that He never changes, He is constant, and His will be the same today, tomorrow, and forevermore. When we take our problems, struggles, and worries to God in prayer—He shifts our focus off the mountain to the fact He can move mountains.
He reminds us:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace. -Rom. 15:13
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. -Lam. 3:21
This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory. -1 Cor. 4:17
Prayer Makes Us Healthier
"The is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: 'I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.'" 2 Kings 20:5
Prayer makes the whole body healthier. Because prayer has the ability to transform and renew our spirits, we will also reap the benefits in our bodies. A study found praying improves neurological and cardiovascular health. Because prayer puts us in a state of peace, it then changes our emotions and moods, the brain will then promote health changes in the body.
Prayer Recharges Your “Spiritual Battery”
Revelation 22:1 - “And He showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb…”
Living the Christian life involves a “spiritual battery.” We are three in one: mind, body, and spirit. Just like our cell phones, our spirit needs recharged, and we do this through prayer. When we go to God – our divine connection—He restores our spirit. Prayer is essentially our charging station.
The Benefits of Prayer List Goes On
Not only does prayer bring us closer to God, it offers forgiveness and freedom, reduces worry, infuses hope, creates change, and recharges our spiritual batteries, prayer also brings wisdom, and love—it brings us to the divine heart of God. He changes us from the inside out. The benefits of prayer are endless but most importantly we get to know God’s heart. Most importantly, our prayers help us reap the benefits in the heavenly realms now and when we are ushered into eternity. When everything in this life turns to ash—our prayers will live on. Our prayers are our coming home. The prophet Jeremiah, “Your word became to me the gladness and joy of my heart,” (Jerimiah 15:16). This is a most wonderful benefit of prayer!
Photo Credit: ©Thinkstock/Everste
Heather Riggleman is a believer, wife, mom, author, social media consultant, and full-time writer. She lives in Minden, Nebraska with her kids, high school sweetheart, and three cats who are her entourage around the homestead. She is a former award-winning journalist with over 2,000 articles published. She is full of grace and grit, raw honesty, and truly believes tacos can solve just about any situation. You can find her on GodUpdates, iBelieve, Crosswalk, Hello Darling, Focus On The Family, and in Brio Magazine. Connect with her at www.HeatherRiggleman.com or on Facebook.