Busy. Busy. Busy.
For most Americans, busyness sums up their lives. In fact, you’re probably too busy even to read this blog post!
Americans are busy at work. According to Forbes, “Studies show that Americans work longer hours and have more stress-related illnesses than their European and Japanese counterparts.” Also, nearly 59% of employees report a high-stress experience at their workplace. Americans are busy on their phones. On average, we spend 5 hours a day on our mobile phones. Perhaps that’s because many Americans experience separation anxiety with their smartphones and check their phone an average of every 12 minutes or over 80 times a day. Stay-at-home moms are busy. The average stay-at-home mom works 98 hours a week (the equivalent of 2.5 jobs!). Americans are too busy to take time to rest. Millennials are so busy that they forfeit more unused vacation time than any other generation.
A recent article on BuzzFeed describes the Millennials as “the Burnout Generation.”
Two Types of Praying
- Praying in the secret place. As we saw from last week’s post, Jesus taught his followers to enter into an inner room and to close the door to pray to the Father, who is in secret (Matthew 6:6). Entering the secret place can be viewed as a devotional style of prayer where we set aside uninterrupted time to withdraw from the busyness and distractions of life to spend time alone with God.
- Praying continuously. In addition to praying in the secret place, we are also to pray continually as we go through the day. Paul tells the believers at Thessalonica to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18). Praying always can be viewed as a conversational style of prayer where we learn to develop an ongoing, never-ending conversation with God throughout our day. Continuous prayer allows us throughout our day to follow Jesus, cast our cares on God, live in joy, overcome anxiety, express our gratitude, and experience his presence in any circumstance.
To pray without ceasing in a continual conversation with God does not mean we sprint off to find a small closet at work or run to a bathroom stall in a store to pray in every ten minutes. We don’t drop to our knees and pray during a business meeting or class lecture. And we certainly don’t close our eyes and pray as we drive.
Instead, we train ourselves to be in an attitude of prayer where we talk and listen to God through silent prayers (or quiet prayers if no one is around) throughout our busy days.
We witness these two types of praying in the story of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was an Israelite who, among most of his nation, had been conquered and exiled to the Persian Empire, where he served as a cupbearer to the Persian King. When he heard reports about the terrible condition of Jews who had escaped the exile and the city of Jerusalem, Nehemiah entered into a season of secret praying and fasting. Afterward, Nehemiah planned on asking the king if he could return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and to help the people.
When King Artaxerxes asked Nehemiah what he wanted, Nehemiah tells us that he “prayed to the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 2:4) and then answered the king. Nehemiah did not say to the king to wait 5 minutes as he ran off to his inner room to pray. Instead, in an attitude of continuous prayer, Nehemiah silently prayed to God and then responded to the king.
The Benefits of Praying Continuously
- Continual prayer allows us to keep in step with the Holy Spirit throughout our day (Galatians 5:25). Remember, prayer is a dialogue; not a one-sided conversation dominated by us. As Janot Hagberg states, “I describe prayer now as listening to God or experiencing God’s presence.” As Jesus went about his busy day, he continually dialogued with the Father to hear and see what the Father was doing (John 5:19).
- Praying without ceasing helps us to live in joy. Paul tells us to “rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). By learning to always be in an attitude of prayer, we can express our joy to God throughout the day, rather than trying to recall joyful moments the next day to be thankful for in our secret place of prayer.
- Continuous prayer helps us overcome the troubles of every day (Matthew 6:34). The Apostle Paul wrote these instructions on prayer to the church, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7).
- Praying continuously helps us live with God every moment of our life. Prayer involves taking our needs and requests and presenting them to God. However, prayer is much more than reciting our wish list to God. Prayer is inviting God continually into our daily circumstances, into our hopes, into our fears, into our dreams, and into our pain.
Making It Personal
Again, prayer is not working our way through a grocery-list of requests that we desire God to perform or answer the way we expect him to. Prayer allows us to experience God’s presence at any time and any place.
Prayer allows us to live relationally with God. Living relationally means we can learn to talk to God, listen to God, and think about God throughout your day – as you wake up in the morning, soak in the tub, drive to your next destination, sit in your favorite chair, as you go on a walk, during a volleyball tournament, or in your favorite place of rest.
I want to encourage you to take time today to explore different ways to interact with God as you go about your day. Try this for the next several days: don’t say “Amen” at the end of any of your prayers. Saying, “Amen” is kind of like saying goodbye to someone when you conclude a conversation. Instead, leave your line of communication open with God.