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
When I was a younger man, I used to stumble over a phrase in this passage: “pray without ceasing.” How is this possible? How can I pray when I am busy chasing the kids or working? How can I pray when I am at a museum with my wife or dinner with friends? It is not possible to pray all the time.
In seminary, I spent a summer as a chaplain’s assistant at a local hospital. One weekend, my mentor handed me the pager to cover for him while he was away. I prayed the pager would not go off; it did. 1:30 am!
A man had fallen down the stairs after arriving home from a wedding rehearsal dinner. There was a good chance he would not make it, and a significant crowd had formed in the waiting area, including the bride and groom. It would not be the happiest day of their life together.
As I got in the car to head to the hospital, I prayed to the Lord to let me be his hands and feet in this situation. I prayed during the five-minute drive and when I walked from the parking garage to the ER entrance.
“Please Lord, let me be present for this family.”
I felt comfort amid adrenaline. Peace as I walked into chaos. Focus amid crazy-level distraction.
It was a long night, and it did not end the way this family wanted. But as I climbed back into my car, I realized that I was not tired. I arrived home before my family was up, so I made some coffee and sat down to reflect on the night. It was then that I realized that the prayer was not only answered, but it carried me throughout the long night.
Sometimes we forget that prayer is also listening; allowing access for God to speak to us. Over the years, I have also found that life can be prayer if you start with asking the Lord to make you available and useful for his will. So if your life becomes a prayer, then you can be praying without ceasing.
Finally, look at the phrases around the one that I stumbled on as a younger man. “Rejoice always” and “give thanks in all circumstances.” It is possible to pray without ceasing when you have the joy of Christ and give thanks to “42” in ALL circumstances.
Now go pray without ceasing!