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.
Our eldest son is off starting a new life with a new job in a new city. Our youngest daughter is flying across the ocean for graduate studies and our youngest son is well into his junior year at college for a sports scholarship. It’s that time of the year where parents all over have had to say good-bye to their kids for another season. I remember being that kid and not really understanding why mom would be so emotional when I left; it was exciting times for me. Now being on the other end of that equation, I certainly have a better appreciation of the sense of loss.
When the kids are off it sure is nice to get an unsolicited phone call or text saying: “hey have you got some time to talk?”. I can tell you that whatever the reality is, the answer is always “yes” or “give me 5 minutes” so I can quickly end whatever other business can wait. This analogy gave me a whole new appreciation for what God must feel like with us his children.
I remember reading today’s scripture many years ago as a kid and really wondering about it. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18). The first part and the end part made sense, but the part about praying “continually” didn’t make sense. I pictured monks who had denied their life and went up into the mountains to live in a cloister, where they could pray all day long. I knew I wasn’t going to do that, so the whole “pray continually” thing wasn’t going to happen. Fortunately, over the years I gained a better understanding of what this scripture actually means.
In Oswald Chambers’ compilation of lectures from the early 1900’s (My Utmost for His Highest), he suggests that the correct way to think about prayer is: as the breath in our lungs and the blood from our hearts. Chambers wrote: “Our blood flows and our breathing continues ‘without ceasing’; we are not even conscious of it, but it never stops”[i]. Chambers is saying that this is where we need to get to as Christians, as followers of Christ. He says that “Prayer is not an exercise; it is the life of the saint”.
When our relationship is solid with God; when we live a life of obedience, although we are not conscious of it, we are living a life of continual prayer. We need to develop and maintain a childlike habit of offering up prayers in our heart to God all the time.
When I’m closest to God I just chat with him; driving to work, or my favorite is running or biking. Just chats about what I’m feeling, what I’m grateful for, what I need, or guidance I’m looking for. Sometimes I’m upset and I even complain to God. Whatever it is, I know God is just happy I’m reaching out. I then listen and, more often than not, I sense God’s direction, I sense his very quiet voice gently speaking to me.
Like I feel when I get that unsolicited text saying, “hey can we talk?”, I’m sure it delights God when we reach out to him. And just like I would be annoyed if my kids only reached out when they needed something, like money wired, I am sure God is disappointed when we only reach out to him like a Genie for our wants. When is the last time you reached out to God, just because? When did you last reach out just to chat?
[i] https://utmost.org/thinking-of-prayer-as-jesus-taught/. My Utmost For His Highest, May 26.