Ok, I think you get the idea. But just one more time:
Pray continually. ~ 1 Thess 5:17
We know about this verse. Add in a bunch of other verses (especially from Apostle Paul) about praying without ceasing. Question: Are we literally supposed to do this or is this an example of hyperbole? I mean, c’mon, there’s the extreme hyperbole of how we should deal with sin: cut off your hand, gouge out your eyes, and that it’s better for a millstone be tied to someone’s neck and have that person thrown into the sea than for him to cause others to sin (Matt 18). Literally, we don’t do this, though. We understand that life is precious (and our hands and eyes) so we don’t inflict death and pain via disembodiment whenever we sin. So, is praying all the time also a hyperbole, an extreme not to be taken that… THAT seriously? Can we take it a notch down?
I’m going to argue that apart from when we’re sleeping (and therefore not conscious), no.
Ok, let’s clarify some stuff. I’m not talking about this kind of prayer all the time: lifting up your hands in church and crying really loudly to God or being sprawled out on the floor and prostrate before God. Yes, there are times and places for that. But I’m talking about more than just prayer meetings at the local church building/synagogue. Praying all the time, really? Yes! What else is going on in your mind? Let me name a few: your random thoughts. Truth claims. People. Emotions. Tasks that you are doing/schedule. Sins. Now that it’s listed out like that, it’s pretty obvious that we can pray through all of those things, right?
Emotions: Psalms are an awesome place to start if you are a very emotional person. If you’re down and out because you’re having a rough time, spontaneously praising God in joy, feeling like you’re going crazy; if you’re angry at the Enemy or at your situation at sin, flustered and needing support, or feeling courageously strong and want to do some battle… Psalms are awesome ways to direct you to pray through your emotions! They are full of anger, laments, joy, etc. Although we don’t have the particular tunes anymore, many of the psalms were sung and just as music evokes emotion, so do the psalms fluctuate and emote along with their musicians.
Truth claims: The BIBLE holds the ultimate truth, Amen? There’s so much wisdom to be learned here. And you know what? James 1 says that if we pray for wisdom, then God will give it to us!
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. ~ James 1:5
So there, you can totally pray through your favorite verses or through your Devotional Times as you internalize truth and let truth simmer in your heart. God desires to give you more and more wisdom… you just need to ask him for it (aka pray for it!)
Random thoughts: If you have random temptations? Pray about it! Wasting time thinking about something stupid or daydreaming? Submit it before God!
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. ~ 2 Cor 10:5
A quick prayer of “God, please help me, I’m having these fleeting desires crop up right now. I’m wasting the time and mental space that you’ve given to me to think way too much about X unnecessarily. ” These prayers can really help direct your thoughts. Your thoughts can turn into prayers. And those prayers can direct your thoughts. Great feedback loop.
People: OK, I’m going to have to expound on this some other time, about the details of the “koinonia cross” and about the importance of your relationships between you and God, you and Christians, you and non-Christians. But obviously, as people come to mind, you can pray for them! You don’t have to be with people 24/7 to love them. Some examples? Glad you asked! The prophet Samuel considered it a vital part of his ministry to be praying for others. He said this to the people:
Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you. ~1 Samuel 12:23
Apostle Paul loved his fellow coworkers in the Lord and found it a joy to remember them in prayer:
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. ~ Philippians 1:3-5
Tasks (and while doing nothing): What? You can pray while doing tasks? Well, yes, your hands are working or your body is moving. But where is your mind? Did you just check out? If you can multitask, you can totally be praying about any of the above while you do stuff. Or, if you can’t multitask and need to concentrate, you can still do what you’re doing with zeal while connecting it all back to God. is your service ultimately for God? Yes, it should be. Even my day job? Yes, I’m working hard at my day job so that I can be responsible to pay my bills to stay at this church to grow, be a decent witness at work to be that Christian chain for my coworkers so that even if I don’t have bandwidth to do more ministry with them they can at least see my example and be a step closer to accepting Christianity, and any leftover time that I may have at my job I can use to either take care of life now so that I can be more free to love other people later or I can work hard and be available for certain tasks that pop up (responding to texts, responding to prayer requests, responding to ministry needs, responding to other relationships, etc). (*Note: My manager is pretty happy with me. I know this for sure because he recently gave me mid-year bonus, which is not normal for our company, when I didn’t ask or expect one. So I’m doing all this after I make sure that I do a good job at my workplace. If you’re tasked with doing some kind of scheduling or planning for ministry, then duh, the connection between those tasks to doing that service for God ought to be pretty clear.)
Another point about doing nothing: Are you zoning out during car rides or on BART? Bored at work? Well, gosh, you can do something with that time: pray! If you’re forgetful like me, you can write a list of names of people or groups that you want to pray for on a post-it note and stick it on your car so that when you’re zoning out, you can pray instead.
Sins: Yes… to slay sin, we need truth (wisdom) which was previously talked about before, and prayer. Again, James my good man says this:
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. ~James 5:16
Prayer can uproot even the desire to sin (as we are internally battling with our sinful desires and Christ’s desires) – I’ve experienced this firsthand.
Prayer works and there’s so much to pray about, not just for yourself, but also for others. Or, even if you draw a blank because you’re isolated or prayed through every single person/group/worldwide concerns that you’ve thought of, you can give praise to God and thank God. I’ll end with the ACTS model:
Adoration: There are many names that describe God: Provider, Healer, Father, Creator, etc. Lots of aspects of who God is that we can praise him for.
Confession: We just went through Good Friday and Easter and reaffirmed the fact that we have committed every sin that has been named (or we could see ourselves committing every sin possible). Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! (Psalm 139). So there you go, lots of stuff to confess over.
Thanksgiving: Remember how God brought you out of your “Egypt”, out of the hand of the your “Canaanites” and into the Promised land. Remember how He defeated some Goliaths in your life. And even today: count your blessings. Can this list ever really end?
Supplication: If you are one broken sinner with so many sins, concerns, and needs to pray over, how much more will this be amplified if you consider how you also ought to pray for other people in your life? We would be fools to think that we are ok, and everyone around us is ok, and that they don’t have any needs.
To recap ACTS: 2 out of the 4 have to do with appreciating God. 1 has to do with what keeps you from God. And 1 has to do with our daily bread/our needs today.
There’s a lot to pray for in your waking moments, starting from today. Are you overcome with emotions? Nervous right before meeting up with someone? Unsure about making a tough decision? Let’s get going and pray!
“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” ~ St. Augustine