(This post is part of a “synchroblog” on the topic “How do you pray?” I will post links to the other posts in this synchroblog at the end of this post as they are published.)
I have been taught many things about prayer. I’ve learned that some of these things have more to do with tradition than with communicating with God (i.e., bowing your head, closing your eyes). Other things that I have been taught or have learned have proven very beneficial. For example, a long fast once taught me how to rely on God instead of material things that I thought I needed to be happy or to survive. I’ve learned how to spend long times of quiet solitude talking and listening to God. I’ve learned how to rest in his presence.
I have gone through many seasons of prayer in my life. Some seasons were marked by times of long prayers in the mornings. In other seasons, I mostly prayed at night. There have been times when songs and psalms dominated my prayer. There have been times of lament, and other times of praise. In each of these seasons, I’ve learned more about prayer, more about myself, and more about God. More importantly, in each season, I have found that God is speaking and communicating whether or not I am listening.
A few years ago, a new friend (at that time – now a dear friend) began to remind me often of 1 Thessalonians 5:17 – “Pray without ceasing”. This is a verse that has scared me in the past. I never understood how I could pray without ceasing. I wanted to pray longer. I wanted to pray more often. But, there was always something that would interrupt my times of prayer – and that something was usually life. Life happens. And, when life happens, life interrupts prayer. Right?
At first, it was easier to simply mark up 1 Thessalonians 5:17 as an example of hyperbole – exaggeration. Paul did not really mean that we should pray without ceasing; he simply meant that we should pray as much and as often as we possibly could. This was a nice, clean, doable answer for me. And, there is the problem. It was doable. This means that I could pray more and longer and feel good about myself. Thus, in this vein, prayer becomes an effort to reach God instead of the grace of God communicating with me.
But, if “pray without ceasing” is not hyperbole, then how should I understand it? Not too long ago, I was reminded about a little book by Brother Lawrence (1610-1691) called The Practice of the Presence of God. In the “Fourth Conversation”, Brother Lawrence says:
[W]e might accustom ourselves to a continual conversation with Him, with freedom and in simplicity… [W]e need only to recognize God intimately present with us, to address ourselves to Him every moment, that we may beg His assistance for knowing His will in things doubtful, and for rightly performing those which we plainly see He requires of us, offering them to Him before we do them, and giving Him thanks when we have done.
In this short passage, I think Brother Lawrence hits on a key to prayer: recognizing God as intimately present. God’s intimate presence is not dependent upon my activity or lack of activity. God’s intimate presence is not dependent upon silence or lack of silence. God’s intimate presence is not dependent upon solitude or lack of solitude. God is intimately present with his children through his Spirit at all times, in all places, in all circumstances and situations. Thus, prayer as communication and communion with God is possible at all times, in all places, in all circumstances and situations.
Through the short passage from Brother Lawrence, I learned about a misconception that I had about prayer. Prayer is not simply a two-way conversation between God and myself that can be interrupted by life. Instead, prayer is a two-way conversation between God and myself that, when life happens, turns into a three-way conversation between God, myself, and life. Thus, life does not interrupt God’s conversation with me; instead, life enters into God’s conversation with me as a third conversation partner. God does not stop communicating with me when life happens. It is possible that I stop listening to God when life happens, but that does not mean that God has stopped communicating with me or that I must stop communicating with God.
I love to sit in a group of friends as we talk with one another and listen to one another. I love the interaction and the symphony of many voices reaching understanding. I do not consider it an interruption when there is more than one other person present. In the same way, God is always a conversation partner – a constant, dependable, trustworthy, and true conversation partner. In fact, God is the only constant, dependable, trustworthy, and true conversation partner. The only difficulty in praying without ceasing is choosing to listen to God’s voice over the roar and den of the world as life happens. God is speaking. But we must listen.
Do I pray without ceasing? In some ways, yes, because God is always a part of my life and conversation whether I recognize it or not. But, in another way, I do not pray without ceasing because I do not always recognize and respond to God’s constant and intimate presence. Do you prayer without ceasing?
Those participating in the synchroblog today are:
Cindy Bryan at Run With It – Teach Me to Pray…Again?
Lyn Hallewell at Beyond the 4 Walls – God, Prayer and Me
Erin Word at Decompressing Faith – Prayer=Sex with God
Rick Meigs at The Blind Beggar – Prayer Helps that Get Me Deeper
Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church – Pray without Ceasing
Julie Clawson at One Hand Clapping – Prayer Synchroblog
Heather at Deconstructed Christian – Synchroblog Prayer
Alex at Deconstructed Christian – Prayer Synchroblog II
Lydia at The Nunnery – How Do You Pray
Che Vachon at ThisStream – My Thoughts…
Paul Mayers at One for the Road – Praying and Learning to Pray Again
Sonja Andrews at Calacirian – The Appearance of Holiness
Jon Peres at Something Else – How Do I Pray?
Paul Walker at OUt of the Cocoon – One Congregation Experiments with Emerging Prayer
Susan Barnes at A Booklook – Synchroblog: How Do You Pray?
Brother Maynard at Subversive Influence – Fear Not the Silence
Nate Peres at Defined – How Do I Pray?
Barry Taylor at Honest Faith – Synchroblog:How Do You Pray?
Grace at Emerging Grace – Clearance Sale on Intercession Books
Jim Lehmer at Lord I Believe, Please Help My Unbelief – Synchroblog – How Do You Pray?
Lew A at The Pursuit – How Do You Pray? – Synchroblog
Jon Hallewell at Life-Shaped Faith – When I’m Spoken To
Deb at Another Unfinished Symphony – Prayer Synchroblog
Barb at A Former Leader’s Journey – Prayer Without Throwing Things
Patti Blount at Here Comes the Groom – How Do I Pray
Doug Jones at Perigrinatio – How I Pray
Glenn Hagar at Re-Dreaming the Dream – Prayer Phases
Pam Hogeweide at How God Messed up my Religion – The Art of Blue Tape Spirituality
Mary at One Thing is Needed – How Do I Pray?
Rhonda Mitchell at Rhonda’s Blog – Prayer SynchroBlog
John Smulo at SmuloSpace – Praying Naturally
Rachel Warwick at Not Where Next but Where Now – How Do You Pray?
Barbara Legere at Prodigal Daughter – How to Not Pray
Jonathan Brink at Missio Dei – Posture – Sitting With My Daddy
Andy at A Mile From the Beach – How Do I Pray
Cynthia Clack at A Life Profound – How Do I Pray
Makeesha Fisher at Swinging from the Vine – The Mystery of Prayer
Joy at My Emerging Faith – Synchroblog:Prayer
Rick Stilwell at Mmm…That’s Good Coffee – Push
Larry at Last Exit Before Oblivion – Prayer is Weird
Rob McAlpine at RobbyMac – Synchro-Prayer