MAKING MEANING OF PRAYER
The Apostle Paul wrote to the early Christian community in Thessalonica the following words: Rejoice always and pray constantly and give thanks in all circumstances…” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Today, my focus is on the middle phrase, “Pray constantly”. To be really honest, years ago I tried to “pray constantly” and frankly it was impossible to do with how I was taught to pray. Today, I have a deep understanding of what prayer is and what it isn’t. I will start with what it isn’t. It isn’t saying a bunch of poetic words in the presence of God in the hopes they are heard and God will act. Today, I understand prayer very differently. When the disciples ask Jesus how to pray, he teaches them the “Lord’s Prayer”. The following line: “Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven” invites people to imagine that all the physical, emotional and spiritual love, truth and wellness that exists in Heaven to be at our disposal here on Earth. These vast heavenly virtues have the power to overcome hunger, oppression and injustice here on Earth. Why don’t we witness extraordinary things if so many people pray this prayer? On their own, they are pretty words; like a lamp that may be pretty but is not plugged into the source that powers it up. We need to allow ourselves to get plugged into the source, which is God! Only then will we fully realize and become awake and aware of the awesome realities around us. When we allow ourselves to truly experience God’s presence, it is like flipping the switch allowing us to see and experience a vital part of our universal interconnection with God and all living things! People who pray with this understanding make their life a prayer in and of itself after a while. That is how we can pray constantly.
Prayer then becomes much more than asking and waiting for answers. We will seek to know more of God’s love and power and desire more of God in our lives. The result will be transforming and unique to each of us.
As the great Muslim Sufi Rumi said, “We must get out of the circle of time into the circle of LOVE.” Prayer does just that! With prayer we will be motivated to live from a place of love, compassion and empathy. We will understand how to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly.” That is why Jesus was so effective.
When we greet the day awake and aware that God has been in this place before we arrived in it, we will respond with gratitude and thanksgiving. To make one’s life a prayer, we will engage in the chaos and creativity of life with unwavering faith, whether encountering disease, oppression and injustice or the beauty and order around us. We will be free to rejoice always and pray constantly and give thanks in all circumstances.