1 Thessalonians 5 17 pray continually,
As part of Canada’s “Own the Podium” program, author Penny Werthner conducted a study of the 2008 Canadian Beijing Winter Olympic team. Looking for key themes for success, she found that “Athlete self-awareness” was the most important, followed by a “Strong Coach-Athlete relationship”. When it came to winning an Olympic Medal or producing a personal best, a strong relationship with their Coach was critical. “A number of the athletes also spoke of the open-mindedness of their Coaches and their willingness to listen to what they each needed and thought…. Coaches were also open-minded in the sense of being willing to bring other experts into the team, and they cared for them not just as athletes but as individuals”[ii].
As a Christian, there are many important relationships in our lives including our family and friends, but the most critical relationship we have is the one we have with God. If that relationship is not the most important, then all the other relationships will suffer. The key to our relationship with God is the same as with our other relationships – it is communication. While many athletes can form very powerful and successful bonds with their coaches, as a Christian, you have access to the “Perfect Coach”. Imagine a coach who never steers you wrong and always has your best interests in mind. The key to accessing the wisdom of this coach is very simple – you need to speak to him and you need to listen. What does that practically look like?
The story of Nehemiah is a very powerful one. He was instrumental in rebuilding Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile. Nehemiah had the important position of cupbearer to the King and in Nehemiah 2 we read of the story of him addressing the king. A cupbearer’s job was very simply. First, taste the wine to make sure it wasn’t poisoned and then serve this wine to the King. And of upmost importance – don’t ever look sad! A sad disposition in royal presence could be punishable by death. One day, however, Nehemiah couldn’t help himself and the King asked why he looked so sad? “I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, ‘May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?’ The king said to me, ‘What is it you want?’ Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king.” Nehemiah 2: 2-5
When I read this passage, I appreciated the last sentence: “then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king”. In the heat of the battle, with his life on the line, Nehemiah couldn’t call a time-out and ask if he could step out, go back home to his bedroom, kneel beside his bed and pray to God. Nehemiah had a personal relationship with God and knew that in that moment he could reach out to God directly with this need; his supernatural coach was always available. And the answer did come immediately. God led Nehemiah to ask for time away to rebuild the Jerusalem temple. Not only did the king grant this, but he also sent army officers and cavalry along to provide protection and a safe journey.
When 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says “pray continually”, it isn’t referring to vain repetitions – some sort of monastic chant. It means having a oneness with God where we can reach out to him at any time with any request. It means we chat with him during the day giving thanks, sharing with him and yes, sometimes asking for something. You have access to the greatest coach in the universe. Are you reaching out?