Column: Keep praying

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“And so we will be with the Lord forever.” – Paul, 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

It’s easy to lose perspective.

In modern humanity’s daily drumbeat madness of schedules, responsibilities, trials, distractions, temptations, opportunities, intrusions, chores, mistakes, disasters, secular invective, political correctness, endless social media and the 24-hour news cycle, how in the world are we supposed to do what Paul clearly instructs a few verses later, in 1 Thessalonians 5:17: “Pray continually”?

Some folks are lucky if they can remember to breathe continually.

It’s easy to default to the errant “Back Then” viewpoint, as in, “Back Then in biblical times they were less busy and had more time to pray.”  Nonsense. “Back then,” they were plenty busy just trying to survive. But mankind’s daily busyness, in any era, isn’t what Paul is talking about. Paul is talking about the eternity of our relationship with God in Jesus Christ. He is talking about our personal, ongoing, perpetual identity in Jesus. He is talking about unceasing prayer as accepting God’s unceasing invitation to share in His eternal life.

We manage our time wrong, and cheat our hearts, if we look at prayer as a “start and stop” enterprise. Prayer is an eternal relationship builder, not a temporal checklist item. It’s an expander, not a limiter. Sure, a functioning Christian finds great joy in the quietness of dedicated prayer time. Most of us crave the fellowship and communion of praising God together in a worship service. Carving out time enough to study the Bible, share the faith, serve others and actively participate in the body of Christ – the Church – is a priority.

But greater still is the joy – actually the completeness of our joy (John 16:22) – of living in the unceasing continuity of Jesus; of identifying and aligning each breath we take with the truth of Christ.

The Lord’s Prayer, for example, is God’s invitation to do just that.  It’s not a request list, a fix-it inventory, an apology, or a mere plea for here-and-gone forgiveness.   It is Jesus’s way, God’s way, of inviting the disciples and then all mankind into God’s divine life.  N.T. Wright calls the Lord’s Prayer the “true Exodus” prayer of God’s people, opening up God’s long promised new world and summoning people to share it.

It is incorrect to think we have to be idle to be “praying.”  Our Christian identity is a prayer.  The very name of Jesus is a prayer, because “you will have life by the power of His name.” (John 20:31).

Don’t just say your prayers.  Be your prayers.

In Christ.

All the time.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) prays the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  Short, sweet, and often.

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