Pray Without Ceasing?
I recently attended a women's retreat where four women raced each other in a "multitasking mama" contest. Each had to send a text message, put in a ponytail, make a sandwich, apply mascara, and wrap a present. The winner, panting, curtsied as the women in the audience raucously cheered.
I can relate. Multitasking isn't optional in my life; I scurry around like a game-show contestant most mornings (and evenings). My prayers often consist of a hurried "Help me!" or a scattered "Thanks God!" But I don't think that's what the apostle Paul had in mind when he exhorted believers to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
If you are like me, you want a vibrant prayer life but don't know how to get there. Here are a few things I've learned about making continual prayer a reality in my frenzied life.
Dwelling with Christ
As believers, we do not shout our prayers out and up to the heavens like a wish slingshot that we hope hits the mark. God did something incredible in the person of Christ—he released us from worshiping in a particular place and time because he took up residence in our hearts. Romans 8:11 says that the spirit of Christ lives in us. We must first take in the truth that Christ is closer than our breath if we are to understand how to pray constantly.
I liken it to a swimming pool. When standing in the water, I am both in and out of the pool. My body is mostly submerged, but my eyes and ears continue to take in sight and sound around me. If I recline my head backward and float, I still hear life around me, but it is overtaken by the lovely muted quality of water.
Consider your conversations with God like this pool. At any moment, God invites you to toss your head back and enter into his presence. Although still "present" in the task at hand, you have the opportunity to soften the sounds of life and listen to his quiet whisper.
The truth of Christ's dwelling, closer than our skin, is the foundational relationship with God that makes "praying without ceasing" a possibility. But what do we pray about? Paul links joy, thankfulness, and petition in several places in his letters (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, 2 Timothy 1, Romans 1:8-10).
Steadfast joy is cultivated outside of my daily circumstances. In Psalm 107, we see a theme of remembering what God has done in our own personal stories as the key to joy. In the business and busyness of life, I easily forget the miracles God has worked in my heart. But remembering his faithfulness, his mercy, and his love toward me in the past grants me peace in the present. It emboldens my heart in times of self-pity and convicts me when I fall for the illusion of self-importance.