Pray continually. Really? How?
By Brian Mavis, AKB President
“A prayer in its simplest definition is merely a wish turned Godward.” – Phillips Brooks
”Everything that one turns in the direction of God is a prayer.” – St. Ignatius Loyola
“Pray continually” – that’s what 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says to do. Two things come to my mind: How and Why? First, it sounds pretty much impossible. It might as well say, “Run continually.” But if it were possible, how could you learn to do it? Second, if you could pray all the time, why would you want to? It may be possible, but is it practical?
But something occurred to me that answers both the how and why. Here it is: You hold a little conversation with yourself in your head all day long. In fact, you may be doing it now. You silently talk to yourself when you are showering, driving, washing dishes, working, cooking, walking, etc. – don’t you? This continual self-talk is a type of praying, where you are the “god.”
So, you see, you already “pray continually” – it’s just to yourself.
This internal conversation can be transformed into conversation with God. All you have to do is send your thoughts out of your head and into heaven. You are less than an inch away from praying continually. Only the width of your cranium keeps your perpetual self-talk from being transformed into prayer.
How can you turn your “self-prayer” toward God? It’s simple. Whenever you catch yourself thinking to yourself, direct the conversation to God. Stop your conversation to yourself and say “God” or “Father.” When you do this, you’ll discover you are chatterbox and that you can be praying all day – to God, and not to yourself. Self-talk usually does more harm than good because it produces anxiety, not answers. It’s like dropping a letter in the mail without an address on the envelope; the content is there, but it’s not going anywhere. You need to make sure that chitchat in your head goes somewhere.
In Jesus’ day, a couple of words were used to mean “pray”. The word most often used in classical Greek literature and by non-Christians was “euchomai.” An example of this usage is in Acts 27:29 when the pagan sailors “prayed” for daylight. However, the word most often used in the Bible was “proseuchomai.” It’s the same word with an important prefix, “pros,” meaning “toward.” Christians prayed toward a personal God they knew could hear and help them.
I like how one of Jesus’ formerly anxious and talkative disciples puts it. Peter said, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). By trade, Peter was a fisherman, and he used a fishing word to explain how to pray – “cast.” Peter fished with a net. He would hold the net in both hands off to one side of his waist. Then with all his might, he would uncoil his body, hurling the net as far as he could – letting go of it. This image shows us what we are to do with our thoughts and concerns. We are to cast them like a fisherman hurling a net away from us up to God.
How about you? What’s got you worried? What’s got you silently talking to yourself? It doesn’t do any good to talk to yourself about your anxieties, hopes, dreams, and fears. Cast them to God. Throw them as far as you can, turning your cares into prayers.