When I was in the 1st or 2nd grade I heard the mother of my friend tell all of us in her Sunday school class that prayer was simply talking to God. She went on to tell us that each morning while getting ready in the bathroom, she would talk to God. So of course, I imagined a women putting on her makeup, brushing her hair, and having a two-way conversation with God. Great right?
Few weeks later, I’m spending the night with my friend, whose mother was our Sunday school teacher. Early that morning, I hear her in the bathroom so I sneak down the hall to give a listen. Guess what I heard. A woman talking to herself. She was praying, but my little 8-year-old heart was so disappointed to think that God didn’t talk to her every morning so I could hear too!
Now I’m much older, and I’ve learned that prayer is indeed something we do much more for our own hearts than it is something we do to inform God of exactly what we need.
But what is my challenge now? Now it’s learning to see prayer as something I do continually and not something that serves as a distraction to my already full day. 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5, Paul says two words in the midst of a short letter. He says we should, “Pray Continually.” What does this even mean? The only thing I do continually is breathe. Should prayer be as constant as breathing? Well the answer is yes…and no, but really yes.
Prayer should serve as continual interruption. It sits as a line of communication that is always open, always ready for us to engage with our Heavenly Father in a way that keeps us with him. Abiding with him. In his presence. I like that word, interruption. There’s some baggage there, let’s unpack it.
Last year I spent a long weekend with some Trappist Monks in the mountains of Georgia. Strange sentence, right? Let’s just say that I was in a place of my life that both allowed the margin to do such a thing and the curiosity to meet some very new and different friends.
In my time there I tried my best to observe the 7 set-in-stone prayer times throughout the day. I’d arise at 4:30am, then head back to bed while they ate breakfast, then come back at 7am for morning mass. We’d meet again for mid-day prayers at 12:15pm, gather for prayers before dinner at 5:20pm and finally compline, the last prayers of the day at 7:30pm.
In my few days with the monks I learned that prayer served as not the interruption to their lives, but as the life itself. The tasks of the day, the meals, the sleep (albeit very small quantities of it) served as the distractions to their real ambition. Prayer.
Sure, I could have walked away concerned with my own shallowness and lack of time or awareness to pray 7 times a day. Instead, I walked away with a great appreciation for the act of stopping. Our brothers and sister in Christ have called this the Divine Office, or the Daily Office for centuries. That moment when we stop, we listen, we engage, we read his Word aloud, we write what He impresses on our hearts, and we pray.
If we don’t make this Daily Office, this stop, happen; then God has a way of forcing us to. Almost 10 years ago I sat at the foot of my newborn daughters hospital bed praying for her health. It did not look good, things had been terrible. Easily the worst day of my life was watching my 5-day-old daughter stop breathing. I sat in that uncomfortable hospital rocker and prayed. I repeated the words to the song, “Mighty is the Power of the Cross.” Over and over the words to this song played in my heart.
In that moment, in that hospital room I watched my daughter struggle to make it in the world. I prayed myself to a point, where my prayers begin to change. The prayer of what the power of the cross meant for the physical well being of my daughter, began to be prayers of thankfulness for what the Cross meant to myself. Those prayers for my daughter begin to be prayers to God for what he had already done.
The interruption in my life changed me. My daughter she would recover, it would be a miracle that just a few days later we would walk out with that kid. Yes, God moved in her body, he healed her symptoms, and we are thankful. But this Father… I’m thankful for the interruption. Today I dare you to let yourself be interrupted. Learn to see the moments where you can stop, listen, and engage with a Father God that has pursued you even when you didn’t deserve it.
Praying Continually. He wants you with him always. It is my prayer that you let God interrupt you enough to remind you that he wants to know you, He wants you abiding with Him, He wants to see you changed through your knowledge of Him.