Without Ceasing (Prayer III)
|Cycling down Old Frankfort Pike outside of Lexington, KY|
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thes. 5:16-18)
Pray without ceasing. This command alternately fills me with dismay and with hope -- dismay because I know I'll never manage the without ceasing part of things, but hope when I catch a glimpse of the wonder and beauty wrapped up in this precept.
Praying without ceasing isn't in opposition to regular, set-apart times of prayer. I think of the two ways of praying a bit like the different ways I interact with my husband. .
Throughout most days Tim and I communicate in snatches via texts, emails, or short phone conversations. Even when he's home, often we find ourselves grabbing moments between interacting with all of our children, both those at home and those no longer living here. There have been long periods in our marriage when the best time for us to catch up was while he showered after work. And then there are the sweet moments to reconnect before we slip off to sleep. We're still snatching minutes here and there. These little moments keep us involved in the details of one another's lives, but if that was all we had, the lack of extended, deeper conversation would make us weary, lonely for one another.
So we periodically take an evening away for a meal and a walk where we can talk alone for hours. And the, oh joy, occasionally we rearrange our lives enough to allow for extended, in-depth communication. Not long ago we stole away to a state park in Kentucky for three days/two nights of glorious unhurried time. We biked outside of Lexington with gorgeous horse farms lining the road, hiked land that Daniel Boone once fought over, and canoed on the beautiful Elkhorn River. And we talked. And talked. That kind of time happens maybe once a year or so, but nothing compares with these getaways for renewing our relationship and helping us to gather strength for the days ahead.
|These beauties seemed curious as I passed on my bike|
Just like communicating with my husband takes many different forms, some leisurely and unhurried, and others quick but meaningful, prayer takes different forms. If we are to be praying people, we need to have both regular, set-apart times of prayer and also frequent, spontaneous short prayers.
We ought to have regular times when we meet alone with God much like Tim's and my date nights or getaways. (More on that in the next installment in this series!) But between these daily appointments, our hearts can be tuned to Him by sending up short, brief prayers, just as when I send texts or other quick messages to my husband throughout the day.
OK, now let's get practical. Here are some things I've found helpful as I'm learning what this daunting command involves.
First, a change of mindset helps. As overwhelming as the idea of praying unceasingly is, it is also a tremendous privilege! Just think - we are able to enter into the throne room of the King of Heaven at any time of the day or night and from wherever we are! Are you in the midst of disciplining two bickering children (for the umpteenth time today!) and you don't know what to do? Send up a quick prayer for patience, wisdom, and love. Unable to sleep because you are fretting about your family's financial needs? Run to the Father in prayer. If you wanted to meet with the Queen of England, the President of the United States, even the president of your local university, you wouldn't be able to simply walk into his or her office at will. Yet we have that amazing privilege given to us by the Lord of the Universe! Praise be to Him who made the way throne of heaven!
Next, look for ways to incorporate prayer into your daily activities. When I used to do laundry for many small people, I started praying for the owner of each piece of clothing as I folded. My kids all do their own washing now, so I don't have that natural opportunity, but I do still pray for my husband as I fold his pants and shirts. Doing this actually often transforms what can be one of my least favorite household chores into something I enjoy. And it changes my attitude from irritation at the mound of clothes to thankfulness for my husband who works hard for our family or for the sweet toddler who wore those adorable sleepers.
Catch moments to pray with your children, too, Meal blessings, of course, should be part of this, but find other routine events which lend themselves to a short time talking with our Father above. For example, if you hear a siren or see an emergency vehicle, stop and pray together for whomever is suffering. Pray before naps or heading to bed at night. Make prayer as natural as breathing - for both you and your children.
And then another way you can build quick times of prayer into your life are by associating certain places or events as a reminder to pray. As I pass by a grown son's room, I frequently stop and pray for him. Are there things or places you can peg prayer reminders to?
Spontaneous prayer is like having a running conversation with God. Cast your troubles on Him. Share your joys. Express your thankfulness. He delights in hearing from His children.