“Pray continually.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) I have pondered this verse a great deal over the last month. Two words have never been so straightforward and yet so difficult to measure up to. The idea of communing with God in the big and small moments of my day, in the quiet and the chaos, has filled me with hope. Hope in His transformative power in my life. Hope that He might use this very imperfect and broken vessel to bring Gospel encouragement and love to the people in my sphere. This hope in what could be, if I press on to pursue Jesus, is what has caused me to return again and again to this verse.
I’m not a football girl in any form, but to borrow the analogy, my day is chock full of interceptions, fumbles and tackles. It’s exhausting, discouraging, and sometimes downright defeating. But Scripture is full of objective truth that tells me that I can seek God steadfastly—that I can hear his voice above the commotion and follow it. Since I believe Scripture is true and infinitely more trustworthy than my feelings or experiences, I have concluded that praying continually requires cultivating affection and developing new habits.
Prayer Preserves Peace
I recently read a small book by the title The Practice of the Presence of God. The title itself is what piqued my interest, as that is the very thing I wanted to learn more about. It’s a curious little book, and one quite out place in this modern time. From the format to the language, it feels rather antiquated, but gems of wisdom it was not without. One such gem was a description of the monk, known as Brother Lawrence:
Brother Lawrence had found such an advantage in walking in the presence of God… His very countenance was edifying, such a sweet and calm devotion appearing in it as could not but affect the beholders. And it was observed that in the greatest hurry of business in the kitchen he still preserved his recollection and heavenly-mindedness. He was never hasty nor loitering, but did each thing in its season, with an even, uninterrupted composure and tranquility of spirit. “The time of business,” said he, “does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.”
I never could have predicted that a monk would be listed among my greatest role models. But seriously, how did he do it?! I don’t know exactly what his kitchen was like, but when I’m in “the greatest hurry of business” while “several persons are at the same time calling for different things,” I completely lose it. God, my husband and my children are the only people to see those moments, and if yours are anything like mine, you are probably as dumbfounded as I am by the composure just described. Dumbfounded, and perhaps a tinge jealous.
There are a few rare kinds of jealousy that are actually good, and I dare say this is one such kind. I long to operate with the same anchored mind and balanced emotions as Brother Lawrence. I aspire to “possess God in as great tranquility” in my moments of chaos, as I do in my quiet time. To think that I might commune with God in such a way that my “very countenance was edifying.”
Prayer Produces Passion
I sought to learn more about how to pursue praying continually—how to pursue the presence of God. I listened to an excellent sermon from John Piper, on the text in 1 Thessalonians 5. I highly recommend it. In it, he connects the passion of prayer and relationship with God, to the discipline of prayer and relationship with God. The former does not happen apart from the latter. Piper advises,
If you want to have a vital hour-by-hour spontaneous walk with God, you must also have a disciplined regular meeting with God.
The Word is where we see God’s glory afresh, and find new affections stirred for Him. But we must pray and ask the Spirit to give us a love for God’s word, and to make our reading and meditation fruitful.
Nobody is inclined to the Word, or sees spiritual wonders in the Word, or is satisfied with the Word, who does not pray and pray and pray the way the psalmists did. (Piper)
Prayer is vital to understanding God’s Word and bearing fruit by it. One manifestation of that fruit is a more passionate prayer life. Relating to God through His word and prayer are co-dependant practices.
Practice Prayer Through Psalms
I have found it incredibly helpful to have a handful of Scriptures to pray as I open my Bible (usually reluctantly, and under-caffeinated). I am weak, and everyday my flesh is warring against my Spirit as I approach God’s word for strength. Sometimes I’m just not in the mindset to think of an appropriate prayer from scratch. I am tired, distracted, and quite possibly feeling cold and distant. These Psalms posture my heart to receive God’s instruction, and acknowledge my need for His divine illumination. Print this sheet out and tuck it in your bible or journal. You can even cut them out and use a different one each day.
What about you? How have you improved in the practice of prayer? What moments of “the greatest hurry of business” do you wish you could be more like Brother Lawrence? Let’s encourage one another to press into the True Vine, Jesus. Let’s pray for one another, that Christ would possess all our affections. Leave a reply, it would be a joy to lift you up in prayer this week.