As we move toward Advent I have been thinking a lot about what it means to pray without ceasing – a concept that I have always struggled with and at times felt guilty about. For most of my Christian life I have thought of prayer as constant intercession, something that gets both exhausting and draining – and that kind of prayer is impossible to do “without ceasing”.
In recent years I have come to another understanding of prayer. To pray without ceasing means to open our eyes, our ears and our hearts so that we can see the prayers that are already hidden deep within every act of life
- The prayers of thankfulness for God’s provsion
- the prayers of praise when we catch a glimpse of God in the beauty of creation
- the prayers of confession when something strikes deep into our souls and reveals our hidden sins
- prayers of lament when we do not understand the pain and anguish of our friends
- prayers of intercession when we grieve over the horrors we read about in the newspaper
Every mundane act of life can be a revelation of our God if our ears are open to hear the whisper of the Spirit who is present in every part of life and in every moment of the day and if our eyes are open to see the wonder of a God who is behind us, before us and inside us. What do we hear and see?
- the whisper of a guiding father who leads and instructs us in the ways we should go
- the whisper of a compassionate, caring mother whose heart aches for us in the midst of our pain
- the whisper of a god who desires intimacy and closeness of a lover
This new understanding of prayer has also given me a new understanding of what it means to be a disciple. To be a disciple means recognizing the presence of God in every moment and in every act of life and responding to that presence. It is hard for us in this modern world driven by busyness and the drive for success to open our hearts to the possibility that we are not meant to be in control but that God is. It is hard to wait and listen when we are addicted to action heroes who jump into the fray with guns blazing and it is hard to sit and lsten when we think we know the answers.
I am more and more convinced that our answers and God’s are very different from each other. My challenge this Advent season is to take the time to sit and listen and to discover God’s answers that are all around me.