Pray Continually

I remember growing up at church and memorizing Bible verses.

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

I would try to throw John 11:35 in there for some easy points, because it was so short, “Jesus wept.” I didn’t seem to get as much credit in my Sunday school teachers’ eyes for that one…

Well there is another extremely short verse that has meaning and power far beyond it’s two words; 1 Thessalonians 5:17. “Pray continually.”

Now as a kid growing up, this command seemed to tell me that I needed to go into my bedroom, close the door, sit on my bed, fold my hands, bow my head, close my eyes, and talk to myself- seemingly forever!

How is that even possible, God?!? I need to eat, sleep, go to school, do my chores- you did tell me to honor my mother and father by the way! I knew that I wasn’t good at multi-tasking so I figured something would just have to go- either my prayer life or everything else I did.

Now as I got older, I did what I think a lot of people do; instead of reassessing my understanding of prayer so that I could pray without ceasing, I just assumed that I was a sinner who falls short of God’s glory, which would ideally have me praying all the time.

As I’ve grown up, I now know that God doesn’t require us to fold our hands together for us to officially be praying. In fact, as we know, prayer doesn’t have to be me talking out loud to myself.

Prayer is when my human life is aligned with God’s will for humanity.

This happens when we present our fears, worries and celebrations to God. This happens when a group of fellow Christ-following people gather together to discern where God is calling them towards.

However, this also happens when I am serving food at a soup kitchen. This happens when I am connecting with a friend in a way that gives me life. This happens when I am sleeping (as long as I don’t sleep in too late and miss part of the upcoming day!)

When we expand out definition of prayer, it becomes possible to pray continually. It’s still not easy, because there are still many moments in my day, where I do fall short of what I know God desires for my life. However, there is hope to be able to achieve this high calling that Paul wrote to the early Christian church.

I want to close with this final thought. My view of this verse changed drastically when I read these two words not simply as a command, but an invitation- an invitation to a life abundant and full of grace, mercy and love.

When I am anxious, downtrodden or confused, I pray. I might not fold my hands and close my eyes, but I try to realign my human life with God’s will for humanity. It it incredible how time and time again I can see God clearly.

-Pastor Joel

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