Livin’ On A Prayer
“And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 14-19
Throughout the Bible, especially in Paul’s letters to the Church, there is significant importance placed on connecting with God through prayer. Our need for casting our cares and offering up our thanksgiving and praise to God is clearly evident if we believe the Word of God to be truth.
Jesus even offers us a bit of a template for how we are to pray. He guides us through a pattern of recognizing God, thanking God, confessing to God, and then trusting God. (Matthew 6:9-13)
So, when we see Paul’s instructions to “pray continually” (In other versions; pray without ceasing), we all must wonder how that works in the real world. Life is full of noise. Life is full of responsibilities. Life is full of… well… let’s just say life is full. Are we REALLY expected to be constantly in prayer? For some of us, even finding the words to pray is as a struggle even when everything is under control.
Before Jesus gave us instructions on where our focus should be in prayer, He tells us where it should not be. He tells us that we are not to use prayer as an attention getter. We are not supposed to concern ourselves with how many words we get out, or how eloquent they are. If you look at the above pattern for prayer from Jesus, you realize that we can have our hearts in prayer without saying much, or anything at all!
There is a Van Gogh drawing from 1882 titled “At Eternity’s Gate.” It is a portrait of a peasant in prayer. The heart of this drawing is that one does not have to have it all together and can even be in a position of pain or loneliness, and yet still be invited to commune with God.
See, prayer is not always just about communication, it is about communion with God. This communion is achieved in different ways for each person and in each circumstance. It is taking time and creating space in our hearts and minds to connect with God. Prayer is about being aware of where we are, who we are, and the presence of God’s Spirit and Truth in our lives.
Does that mean our words don’t matter? No, of course they matter. But we do not have to feel obligated to fill our time by cramming in as much “christianese” as possible, without ever getting to a place that we feel close and present with God.
When Mother Teresa was asked what she says to God when she prays, she responded by saying “I don’t say anything… I listen.” And when asked what God says she responded again with “God doesn’t say anything… God listens.”
As we recommit and reimagine how our lives can be formed deeper into the Image of Jesus through prayer, my hope is that, in time, we won’t see this as a burden, task, or cause for anxiety. I hope that we can discover what it looks like… or more importantly, what it feels like… to come together as the Body of Christ and learn to pray continually. In time, my prayer is that we experience encouragement and become an encouragement for our church family and community around us.