If there is one Bible verse responsible for making me the world’s most eclectic Presbyterian, it is probably this verse. If I have to pray without ceasing, then I need some variety in my prayer life!!! I was taught to pray in Sunday School as a child: The Sunday school teacher would ask if we had any prayer concerns. We shared our (often humorous) concerns. He/she prayed, lifting our concerns before God and often concluded with the Lord’s prayer. This is more a model of a pastoral prayer, praying for the concerns of the people, which happens in Presbyterian worship on Sunday morning. If there’s someone I am especially concerned about, I put a picture on my refrigerator and say a quick prayer every time I see it, and I never hesitate to lift a concern to God, no matter how small! If we don’t trust God with the little things, how will we trust God with the big stuff??? We don’t bother God by praying! But it would be a weak prayer life if all we did was share concerns! Just after instructing us to pray without ceasing, St. Paul says “give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Prayer is the most wonderful opportunity to practice gratitude for anything and everything!
St. Paul says “Do not quench the Spirit…but test everything; hold fast what is good.” I have always taken this as permission to have rich and varied prayer life. I love reading the Psalms especially, but any scripture, as a form of prayer; the fancy name for this is Lectio Divinia. I see art journaling the Bible as an extension of this practice. Singing hymns and songs of praise is yet another way to pray. Whenever I get behind the wheel of the car, the prayer that pops in my head is: “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me a sinner.” This may tell you something about my driving! It is also a variation of a prayer common in the Greek Orthodox tradition: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.” Sometimes I pray the Rosary, a beautiful meditative prayer from the Catholic tradition, which helps me deeply reflect on the life of Jesus. But the simplest way I’ve found to pray without ceasing is to do everything in love and offer it to the Lord, no matter how humble the task.
So what is prayer? Prayer is simply the practice of God’s presence in our life, knowing that God is always with us! (It is enough to simply be still for a moment and know God!) Only a deep awareness of God’s presence in our life can make it possible to pray without ceasing!