Monday, September 5, 2011

An Attitude of Prayer (Part 2 of "This Thing Called Prayer")

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)

Last time we took a journey into prayer, and what it really means. Today, I am continuing our journey into this place that certainly mystifies so many people in modern America and beyond. So fasten your seat belts! We are off!

The Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5, to pray without ceasing. How is this even possible? What does unceasing prayer look like, and how is it attained? Well, to be perfectly frank, for many years, I did not understand this verse at all. It wasn’t until I studied at the collegiate level that I began to understand a bit more of unceasing prayer.

First of all, let’s remember that prayer is simply dialoging with God. It requires no formal guidelines, no “Thee”s or “Thou”s, and certainly isn’t some religious act that makes one better than everyone else. Prayer does, however, give a strong advantage to those who choose to open up: with each prayer uttered, a person has the opportunity to gain revelation and direction from the One who knows it all, provides all, and sustains all. So let’s take a closer look at what unceasing prayer looks like.

In college, my advisor was a quiet man who considered all things with God, as he walked through each of his days. I never understood what he was doing until my last year there. He would typically have a pause before answering, or continuing in conversation, and he never looked uncertain, confused, or like he was losing concentration. On the contrary! He always looked more intently focused on the situation at hand as he progressed through each one.

In retrospect, I understand that he was considering things with God, to know better how to proceed. It makes so much sense.

In today’s world of electronics, one way to think of prayer would be like our wonderful cell phones. For me, when I wake up in the morning, I begin a conversation with my husband. And throughout his workday and my day at home, grocery shopping, playing with our kids, fixing dinner, and so on, I text him: to keep him informed, ask for clarification, or gain a better understanding for a situation that he has more insight into. We never really “hang up.”

In much of the teaching and examples we have of prayer, there is a “dialing,” (Dear Lord), a “greeting,” (It’s me, Lauren), the “conversation,” (typically the list of wants and “please be with” situations, etc.), and then the “hang up,” (In Your name I pray, Amen).

The truth of the matter is that we never have to announce ourselves to God. We are individually known and cared for by our Heavenly Father more than we can understand in this lifetime. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and can certainly figure out who is “calling.” The next truth is that He already knows what we need. He simply desires relationship with us. When we come to God in prayer, we are offering ourselves as being open to communication with our Father. And it never should be one-sided.

One of the worst discrepancies in modern “prayer” is that we verbally spill everything we have on our agenda without bothering to take the time to listen to what He has to say to us. And no, I’ve never heard an audible James Earl Jones-esque voice booming back at me. What is most normal, for me, is the sense of peace or calm that can arise when I look down one path versus another. Sometimes the Holy Spirit can impress something upon your heart so clearly, there is no true explanation how you know it, you “just know it.” And that is okay. Whatever your situation, take the time to listen to what God has to say to you during your times of prayer.

Lastly, consider not “hanging up” next time you open up. Truth be told, “Amen” is a term that means “so be it,” and is traditionally used corporately when one person prays out loud and a group of people agrees with his/her prayer. It does not mean “I am finished,” or “goodbye.” So next time you talk with God, think about not using the term “amen” unless you are agreeing with others.

Prayer is such an amazing gift for those who are believers in Jesus Christ. Open communication with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is not only where you’ll find the best peace of mind, but also where you will find the best secrets kept just for you.

peace, love and cider mugs...

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