Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pray Continually

In words, this verse has the same number as the shortest verse in the Bible.  I would argue, that for our day to day lives, it packs a bigger punch.  It's found in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.  I would also say that a person could spend a life trying to follow 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and live beautifully.  For today,  I just want to talk about the center of this life lesson sandwich.

In my not so distant past the instruction to pray continually called to mind images of holy people (nuns, priests, prophets). Always uncomfortably dressed.  Always angst ridden. Praying 24/7. Praying with eyes closed, mouths moving, deep in concentration. Praying with all they had, all the time.

At some point it occurred to me that this isn't what the verse had in mind.  I'm sure for some, those called to a life of prayer specifically, my picture may be accurate.  To the rest of us, those called to a life of continual prayer the picture looks much different.

Let's think of Christ's life for a moment.  First, he was always in communication with God because (duh!) He was God.  Second, as a Jewish man, he had the habit of prayer.  Finally, there were times when Jesus took extra time and effort to step up that communication.  This is the example I finally realized that I am to follow.

My first point about Jesus begin God is evident to me.  If you aren't with me on that point you probably aren't interested in what I have to say. As I thought about that oneness that Christ has, father & son, I realized that part of what the pray continually means in my life is that I also am to be in constant communication.  Prayer isn't just at a certain time, in a certain position, within a certain building.  Prayer is the consistent and continuous dwelling with God that God desires.  Prayer is living life in such a way that all the great gifts God sends your way are recognized and you immediately say thanks.  Prayer is sharing all those sticky moments, fleeting concerns, feelings of wonder or joy, as they happen.  Jesus was able to do that because he was/is truly one with God.  We are able to do that because through Christ and the Holy Spirit we are one with God.

Secondly, for  Jesus, since he was a young child, prayer was habit.  As a Jew prayer was part of the lifestyle.  Three times a day.  Every day.  With added prayer on the Sabbath.  If you want to read more about Jewish prayer this is a good place to start.  I believe Christians threw the baby out with the bathwater on this point.  In our desire to demonstrate our freedom through grace we forgot that there are things necessary, not for our salvation, but for our life.  If we want to have life and have it more abundantly we must spend time with God.  The difference between this point and my first is that God is always available to us.  We, being limited, are not always available to God in a deep and meaningful way.  It's the difference between running errands with a friend and sitting down for a cup of coffee.  In order to maintain a friendship busy times and being times are both important.  God is the same.  God desires all of us, busy and being.  God wants us to desire all of God.  Developing the habit of prayer, pulling up a chair and being with God, is an essential part of praying continually.

Finally, no one is able to handle all the world throws at them on their own.  No one.  There are not enough friends, neighbors or family members in the world to help you through every situation that will come your way.  They will help but they are not enough.  Without prayer we will never have enough of God to handle the world around us.  Sometimes the daily and habitual praying is not enough.  Some times require more.  It is so important that we prepare for those times.  Usually we get a warning or we can see or feel those times coming.  The moment we become aware on crisis, spiritual, mental, or physical, we need to begin praying, not on the fly or casually, but earnestly.  Jesus prayed proactively. He didn't wait until he was being arrested to fall to his knees.  He prayed in preparation.  Too often we save the prayer for a moment of panic.  If we pray proactively we can avoid the panic all together.  We may not avoid the crisis but our feelings and actions during challenging times will certainly be impacted by prayer.

So I challenge you, and myself, to pray continually.  Be open and available to God. Constantly in communication like a human i-phone.  Ready to send or receive a call, text, tweet, or instagram at any moment.  Be habitual in your prayer, daily, three time a day, whatever that means for you.  Make prayer a habit.  Finally, be proactive.  Pay attention to the things happening in your world and pray in a way that keeps God in front of crisis.

Hear my prayer, O Lord.

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