Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Common English Bible).
“Preacher, how can I pray continually? I mean really, I have to work and I have to sleep and there are 10,000 other things I have to do each day. I do good to find time to pray when I get up in the morning and before I eat. I just don’t see how it is possible to pray without ceasing.”
These were words from a church member following a sermon where I mentioned that we are called to pray without ceasing. It wasn’t a new question. I had heard it before on several different occasions. I know it is a concern for many because first, they ask the question and second, there are many who make this a New Year’s Resolution each year.
It isn’t really an easy question to answer except I think we sometimes have the wrong idea about what prayer actually is. All too often we think of prayer as eyes closed, head bowed, not to be interrupted until we say “Amen.” It really isn’t a bad thought except, while it is OK to pray these kind of prayers, it isn’t the kind of prayer of which our Scripture passage speaks.
I believe what Paul is speaking of here is being in a constant attitude of prayer. Being ready to pray on the spur of the moment when we see something where there is a real need for prayer. In his Workbook on Intercessory Prayer, Dr. Maxie Dunnam speaks of what he calls breath prayers. These are prayers we pray when we see an instant need. When we see an ambulance on the road to pray for all inside, the paramedics and the victims. Or, we pray for firefighters when we see them headed to an emergency or perhaps even when we drive by a fire station. The same for police officers and the military when they come to the front our our consciousness.
Another thing, I know I get a lot of “Please pray for me pastor…” or “Please pray for my cousin…” One thing I have learned, first I need to write those requests down or they will be gone before I begin to pray. The second thing I have learned is, to stop then and pray for the request. When I fail to do so, I probably will fail to pray for the request at all. I think it is part of praying continuously.
I also think praying in more non-traditional ways can be effective in helping us pray more. Many of you know of my habit of tying prayer ropes. As I tie the ropes I pray for the person who will receive the rope. Sometimes I know who that is, sometimes I don’t. I also use the prayer rope, praying the Jesus Prayer, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Sometimes the prayer will take on other forms too.
These ways that are less traditional, particularly for we Protestants could include praying a rosary (either Catholic or Anglican) or praying the way around a string of beads using the A.C.T.S. prayer form where A=Adoration, C=Confession, T=Thanksgiving and S=Supplication. You can use this form even without beads, to begin by praying what you love about God, the things you need to confess to God, the things for which you are thankful, and the things to meet your needs.
If you are wanting to pray more as your New Years Resolution, you are really only limited by your own imagination. We pray through writing in journals, by meditation, by enjoying nature and much more. If you want to pray continually, you will find a way.
How do you pray continually?
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Peace,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved