“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16
In order to “pray without ceasing,” as the Apostle Paul urges, it is not enough to set aside time to pray. In order to pray constantly, prayer has to be something other than an isolated activity. It has to be woven into the fabric of your life.
Jimmy Carter once estimated that he prays a hundred times a day. I imagine that few of those prayers are with eyes closed and that few begin with, “Dear God,” and end with, “Amen.” Rather, I imagine that his life and his prayers are so interwoven that you cannot separate the two.
This is what a day of praying without ceasing might look like: You wake up in the morning and, with God, you think about what awaits you in the day ahead. You pre-live the day as a kind of prayer. At the breakfast table, you open up the newspaper—another day of horrific stories of violence and disaster—and, as you read, you simply think, “God, be in that place, be with those people.” You get in your car and the traffic is terrible, so you say to God, “The traffic…” and you don’t need to say any more because God knows that the way that sentence ends is, “and the traffic always makes me tense, because I hate to be late.” When you arrive, there is a message from your mother. She sounds more confused than ever, so before you pick up the phone you say to yourself, “God, you’ve got to help me here.” And on like that through the day.
Dear One, accompany me through my day. Be with me constantly, as I seek to be constantly aware of you. Amen.
Martin B. Copenhaver is the President of Andover Newton Theological School, Newton Centre, Massachusetts. His most recent book is Jesus is the Question: The 307 Questions Jesus Asked and the 3 He Answered.