How to Pray in the Trenches: Pray on All Occasions

By Mark D. Roberts

February 4, 2020

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)


As we read Ephesians 6:18, we keep coming upon versions of the word “all”: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” In the original language of this verse, we indeed find four uses of the Greek word pas, which means “all.” Thus, if we’re going to learn how to pray in the trenches, we need to pay close attention to the “alls.”

Black and white image of a classroomFirst of all, we are to pray “on all occasions.” The Greek could also be translated “at all times” or “in every time” (en panti kairo). No matter the precise translation, the point is clear. We are to pray, not just in special times or places, but whenever and wherever. There is no time or place in which prayer is unwelcome, no time or place in which we aren’t free and encouraged to be in communication with God.

This does not require us to pray in a way that is disruptive or disrespectful. A public school teacher, for example, could certainly pray silently in a classroom setting where vocal prayer would be inappropriate. Similarly, a CEO leading a stockholder meeting might pray quietly during a particularly challenging time without making a public display of it. Prayer is two-way communication with God. It’s not putting on a show.

Sometimes we don’t pray in certain situations because, unfortunately, we have divided up our world into sacred realms and secular realms. Prayer is suited for the sacred (church, family, mission trips, etc.) but not for the secular (sales conferences, board meetings, operating heavy machinery, etc.). Yet, when we come to realize that the God who created all things cares about all things, then we also recognize that there is no situation in which prayer is not welcome—even needed.

This means that we must learn to pray in our particular “trenches,” in the places where we struggle to do what’s right, when we face tough challenges at work or at home, whether we’re serving a customer or serving a meal to a hungry person in a soup kitchen. We pray when our wisdom is insufficient, when we need more patience than we can muster ourselves. We pray when speaking with our boss or with those we supervise.

God invites us to pray “on all occasions.” I need to heed this invitation more often. I expect you do too.

Something to Think About:

Do you tend to pray on all occasions? If so, why? If not, why not?

How did you learn to pray? What has shaped your sense of when and where prayer is appropriate?

Do you pray as you are working? Why or why not?

Something to Do:

Experiment with praying in times and places where you might ordinarily not pray (at work, driving, shopping, in a meeting, etc.). Pay attention to what you learn as you do this. Talk with your small group or a Christian friend about this.


Gracious God, thank you for the invitation to pray on all occasions. It is wonderful to think that I am always welcome to communicate with you. How grateful I am that you are available and willing to converse with me.

God, as you know so well, there are certain times when prayer feels natural to me. I speak with you in my daily devotions, when I’m saying grace before a meal, or when I’m feeling overwhelmed in my work. I’m less apt to pray at other occasions. So I need your help with this.

Teach me to pray in your way. Teach me to speak with you – and to listen to you – in all times and places. May I be more and more attentive to you, your presence, your guidance, your love. Amen.

Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
Best of Daily Reflections: Let’s Stop Sucking the Life Out of the Psalms

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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