Praying All the Time

Biltmore gardens by Gillham

Biltmore gardens by Gillham

How are you doing with the biblical mandate to pray without ceasing?

I thought so. Let me tell you a story that might help. 

I met a man the other day who had a short leg. His cobbler had added an inch or better to his left shoe lest he list to port. He was open about his malady and casually began to tell me about how his short leg had affected his prayer life.

I thought a short leg was simply short all over, but such is not the case I learned, at least not in this man’s situation. All but his femur—that’s the part in between the “knee bone” and the “hip bone”—matched his right leg.

With an amused smirk on his face, he leaned left as he described his prayer life in order to provide a visual of how he looked when he attempted to kneel and pray with his short femur. With dry wit he dead-panned that he had adopted a different prayer posture—since he kept falling over.

I already had my mind on prayer since Dianne and I were attending a prayer conference where I was speaking. As this man talked of his short leg it underscored that prayer is more than a posture. In a nutshell, prayer is a discussion with God; an ongoing exchange with our Heavenly Father.

Have you ever wondered about 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing?” Ephesians 6:18 piles on further saying, “Pray at all times in the Spirit.” Maybe it is just me, but I read these verses and wonder: How in the name of time am I supposed to pray all the time? Does God not realize that I have a life to live?

Of course Father God knows about my life! After all, He gave it to me (ref. Col. 3:4), and further, He intends for me to engage life fully. While I might be labeled “a man of prayer” if I kneel beside my bed all day, I have a gut feeling Dianne and I would starve. Prayer must be more than kneeling with clasped hands and downcast eyes focused upon a list of concerns.

I will be blunt: Praying and posture are not related. Just because everyone bows his head doesn’t mean everyone is praying. I would have prayed yourself to sleep, prayed sitting beside your child’s bed, prayed in your car, at your desk, mowing the lawn, while fishing, biking…. Oh yes, and before eating.

This is precisely my point. Praying is an ongoing discussion with your Heavenly Father. It is engaging Him who is your life in all aspects of your life while you go about living life.

So what does prayer look like, and how does it sound?

When I consider my communication with Dianne, we do have conversations that have a clear subject with a definite beginning and conclusion…every now and then. However, our general communication is free-flowing. We leave subjects hanging while we answer the telephone, or if talking over dinner, until we finish chewing our food. We talk about big things and mundane stuff. We muse, mutter, laugh, and leave some conversations dangling—never to be concluded.

My talks with Father are similar. Our communication is not sequential, unless someone is listening in, like at church or before dinner. Once in a while I begin a discussion—a time of prayer—by saying, “Dear most gracious Heavenly Father….” And once in a while I say to Dianne, “My dear, sweet wife….”

Most of the time I simply say, “Hey Di,” and “You know Father….” But far and away, if Dianne is in the same vicinity—like in the passenger seat of the car—I just start talking, and I do the same with God. I figure both are savvy enough to guess who I am addressing. This is life-talk, and this is prayer.

Perhaps no other matter compromises my ability to get close to my Heavenly Father than the irrational and unbiblical belief that prayer must be formal. I don’t put on facades with anyone else. Why should I pose for God, use a special vocabulary, and pretend I’m something I am not and call that prayer?

Since Christ is my life, it seems to me that telling Him with some regularity that I am trusting Him as my life and for my life means that He and I are engaging each other on a continual basis during the course of living. In this way, I pray without ceasing.

But truth be known, once in a while, usually before a meal, I clasp my hands and bow my head, and that’s OK too I think.