Wednesday, October 8, 2014

31 Days Of Strength In Scripture: Pray Without Ceasing

Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

An extremely difficult undertaking, isn't it? The whole prayer thing? I have to say, I've never considered myself to be very good at it. It has never come easily to me, at least not in the way that I used to think it was 'supposed' to occur. I don't know if that sounds strange coming from a Christian or not, but I've known others who have felt much the same. Oddly enough, it took me a long time to become comfortable with the idea that there is no magical formula for prayer.

When I'd hear others pray out loud, I couldn't help but think about how mine didn't sound like that. But now I realize that most of us probably don't sound like that when we're inside our own heads. Some of us ramble about through our jumbled thoughts, getting constantly distracted by other jumbled thoughts (at least, I'm hoping I'm not the only one). Add that to the fact that we are told to never stop praying, and well, it seems like a huge task.

I used to ask, if we are supposed to 'pray without ceasing', what should that look like?

There are several acronyms often taught in the church to help Christians learn 'how to pray'. One in particular that I remember is 'ACTS' – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. I realize there are many benefits to formulas, and there have certainly been times that I benefited from following this model for prayer, but I've found that it's much like when we did something called TAG writing in our junior high English class. I spent too much time being concerned with whether or not each sentence properly modified the one before it to actually write anything of substance.

Following a prayer model can certainly be a bit like that – it's possible to allow the formula to overshadow our deep need to connect with our Savior on a more personal level than, “what comes next?” For me, the idea of vulnerability has always seemed daunting enough as it is without tossing in a formula to 'get right'. Using a model is likely a great tool in the beginning as we're learning the ropes, but there comes a point when we have to be comfortable enough in the process to just pray what we're going to pray, or write what we're going to write.

In the past I have struggled with that aspect of communication in my human relationships – the vulnerability part. I tend to shy away from trusting others with my innermost thoughts. I am not an open book, nor do I desire to be one, but the more I live life, the more necessary I see that kind of openness to be. I especially need to be that way with God, if I ever expect He's going to mold me.

Prayer has so much more to do with delighting in His presence and continual meditation on His word than simply telling him our thoughts. That's what I'm learning right now – that my 'praying without ceasing' is about allowing Him to lead me through my life day by day, moment by moment. When I am continually aware of Him, seeking His guidance, giving Him thanks...that's my communication with Him. That's my ceaseless prayer. And all day, every day, without fail, He is there.