‘Pray continually …’. I remember reading those words in 1 Thessalonians 5 many years ago and having a sense of dread. How can I do that? All day, every day? I know that Jesus doesn’t ask me to do anything that with His strength I cannot do but seriously, pray continually?!
Over time two adjustments helped me understand these two words much better. Firstly continually doesn’t mean continuously! Doing something continually means doing it regularly, frequently, repeating it often in the same way, doing it again and again and again. With respect to prayer it speaks of an ongoing attitude and rhythm rather than a non-stop, no-coming-up-for- air conversation. Secondly I began to see ‘pray continually’ more as an offer rather than an order. Here was a personal invitation to communicate at any time, in any circumstance and in any place with the Creator of the universe!
Father God invites us all into a relationship with Him. Relationships develop and thrive through communication. In our relationship with God prayer is that communication. When you think of any other relationship and the associated communication there are many different facets to it. Most basic of all there is speaking and there is listening. There are short conversations and long ones; conversations can be informative and intimate; conversations are influenced by feelings; they can take place over dinner or out for a walk; they can be fun-filled or tear-filled. When we pray continually we will experience all of these things and many more.
As we keep learning to pray continually we find ourselves more and more in God’s presence and so have a different perspective on life. As we walk through Edinburgh we are thankful to Him for colour, for texture, for smell, for variety. More and more we see others as He sees them, loved, made in His image. Before meeting with people we ask for discernment, wisdom, patience and clarity as we represent Him wherever we are. We recognise injustice and human need and ask how we can be used to make a difference knowing that we can do nothing without His strength but can do all things through Him and with the strength He gives. We become more aware of when we fall short, of when we are selfish and prideful and we can confess there and then knowing His immediate forgiveness. We can be totally overwhelmed by His grace and love for us despite what we do and can simultaneously have tears streaming down our faces and praise on our lips.
Healthy relationships have planned, intentional interactions as well as spontaneous ones and as we think of our prayer life as an integral part of our relationship with Jesus it should be no different. Finding and planning those individual, intentional interactions that work for us will be really helpful. There is no one-size-fits-all here however there is an individual responsibility to find the one size that fits us! Doing that will provide us with a personal framework that incorporates both planned and spontaneous time. For some that framework will be a daily one, for others perhaps a weekly one. For some the framework will last for years, for others perhaps months. For some much of planned prayer will be indoors for others outdoors. We have complete freedom in deciding what fits with us and our personality at this time and stage in life. All we have to do is actually decide and so create that framework.
In all this our motivation to pray continually is to grow and develop in our relationship with Jesus. Each morning when I wake up my simple prayer is ‘Lord, I want more of You today!’ and as I walk to work Paul’s prayer in Phil 3 is mine too:
‘I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead. I want to suffer with Him, sharing His death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!’
Pray continually … have you accepted the invitation?!