1 Thessalonians 5 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually,
Laus perennis, Latin for Perpetual Prayer, was inaugurated in the 5th century AD by Alexander, the founder of the monastery Acoemetae (literally translated as “the sleepless ones”). Monks would sing and pray uninterrupted around the clock. This practise found its way into the Western culture in AD 522 through a monastery in Switzerland.[i]
These movements, and others, have generally been birthed out of a literal interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 5. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. So, is that what Paul meant when he penned these words? Were we to adopt a monastic lifestyle and pray without ceasing? There certainly is great value in continual communal prayers. Some organizations are open 24/7 with people continually praying. Some churches dedicate specific periods (perhaps a few weeks) to continual pray. I believe there is great value in this practise, but I believe Paul was referring to something much deeper than an unbroken chain of time – instead an attitude of God-consciousness. God should be actively involved in all we do, and involved in all our actions and thoughts. Our thoughts in this world can quickly turn impure. We can also be riddled by doubt, fear, anger, or discouragement. All of these things rob us of our rightful place with God. Only prayer can restore that.
As I coached, played sports or watched my kids compete, I recognized a very important truth – it was necessary for me to be prayerfully prepared. Even to this day, when I show up at an old man’s soccer game on a Friday night, I bring along the baggage of the day with me. If I am irritated, this can so easily transfer onto the field. While a hard tackle wouldn’t normally bother me, on this day anger swells up and my demeanor and reactions are anything but Christlike.
If you have children of your own and have watched them play sports, you’ll find the only thing more difficult than being harmed yourself is watching your kids be harmed. It is natural for Momma or Poppa bear to start growling ferociously. The same goes for Momma or Poppa coach. After a few incidents where I was ashamed of how I, the player, father or coach behaved, I realized that I needed to embrace 1 Thessalonians 5:17, and understand what it means to “pray without ceasing”. I began to pray on the way to games and often pray even more fervently during them. One consistent prayer is: “Lord, in all that I do and say in this place, would I honor you”. I confess my sins to Jesus, hand over the day’s baggage, and ask him to penetrate my soul and ask that the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5: 22-23) be evident during this sporting competition, and not natural Roland (because he ain’t all that special). And in coming into communion with Jesus, he naturally brings me to pray for others (gasp – sometimes even the competition). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t back off an inch when I play or coach, because the ultimate end of any sport is to win, but being in a place of continual prayer allows you to put wins and losses into perspective, and understand that Jesus has much grander plans and purposes. I have never prayed for a win on the field or on the track, and I don’t believe I ever will. I have, however, prayed for my kids to do their very best, or for me to perform at my best, but ultimately, I have asked that his will be done on that day. Lord would you be glorified!
[i] Humphrey, Billy. Unceasing: An Introduction to Night & Day Prayer. Forerunner Publishing. 2009. Chapter 6.