On Making Your Life a Prayer
Jesus tells us to pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) And His followers wonder how in the world we’re supposed to do that. Doesn’t God know we have things to do? We’ve got meals to make and laundry to fold and a job to hold down and a family to tend to and friends to keep. Nobody has time to tuck themselves away quietly in a corner all day and talk to God. Well, maybe monks do, but most of us aren’t monks.
So, what did Jesus actually mean when He said that?
I’m reminded of the story in the New Testament when Jesus went to visit the Temple. Now, I’m no scholar and I haven’t spent hours studying the Temple a whole lot, but I just know the Temple was an important place because it was where people were supposed to meet with God. It was where they were supposed to talk to Him and get things right with Him. It was a place where they were supposed to think about Him and worship Him.
But, when Jesus visited the Temple that day, He didn’t find any of that. He found a bunch of folks selling stuff and making lots of money and cheating people. They weren’t thinking about God or talking to Him because they didn’t give a rip about Him. They just used His house to make a profit.
Jesus wasn’t happy about that. In fact, He was so unhappy about it that He did something that most people have a hard time picturing Jesus do. He started throwing things around and yelling. He walked in with His passionate heart for His Heavenly Father and His zealous spirit to set things right again and He wreaked havoc. Tables got smashed. Benches got broken. People got kicked out. Then Jesus let everyone know why He was so angry. It was because God’s house was supposed to be a house of prayer. But those folks had made it a hangout for thieves. (Matthew 21:12-13)
Jesus was serious about prayer. Because prayer is our access to God. It’s how we have a relationship with Him and our Maker created us for relationship with Him. The close kind. The kind where you mutually share your thoughts and you let the other in on your heart and you don’t hold back because there’s all this love and trust.
And when Jesus went back to heaven, He didn’t leave His followers alone. He sent us His Spirit, so that those who love Him and believe in Him can actually walk with Him here. In the everyday moments of our ordinary lives. The children of God become the temple of God because God comes and makes His home with us. He dwells here, in us.
So, when Jesus says, “Pray without ceasing,” He doesn’t mean to sit down and do nothing else but bow our heads and close our eyes and talk to Him. (Although some days that sounds nice. It sounds nicer than cleaning up all these messes.) But He does mean in all our doing, do it with God. It means that we need to cultivate a life-style of friendship—close, intimate friendship—with the Creator of the universe.
It means when I wake up in the morning, I remember God exists. And all throughout the day, I turn my thoughts toward Him. I deepen my sense of God’s Presence by just being aware of Him. Sometimes this means I talk to Him. Sometimes it means I listen. Sometimes it means I thank Him for the gifts right here in front of me—this house, these kids, that warm cup of coffee, that dandelion growing up through the crack in the pavement. Other times, I worship Him. He’s the King of all the kings. The Lord of all the lords. He’s my Rock. My Fortress. My Deliverer. And He is holy. Just so holy.
And as I deepen this friendship with God, my life becomes a prayer. And prayer is not some static thing. It moves us into action. Or rather, it puts our hearts in such a posture that God’s love can flow freely through us, and He moves us into action.
A praying life becomes a blessing life. A life so saturated with the reality and Presence of Jesus that we naturally move toward others with hearts that seek to bless them. To bring good into their lives. When our life becomes a prayer, we’re even capable of blessing our enemies.
Perhaps this is what Jesus means when He says to never stop talking to God. When we make the bed and scrub the pans and steam the rice and buy the groceries, in constant communion with our Maker, God’s Spirit is at home in us. And when God’s Spirit dwells inside of us, He makes Himself known to the world around us. His Kingdom is alive and well, right here in our gritty, grimy life. Felt through our very hands. Our own feet.