Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Sermon: “All the Time with Little Time: Pray as You Go” by Pastor Todd Buurstra
What I love about the Warrior drama is that it takes prayer out of the monestary or sanctuary and puts it on the street, or in the house. That’s crucial for busy folks like us!
I once heard of this prayerful monk who would be so stressed after chairing his monestary’s business meeting (you know: Brother Jerome wants to paint the hall green for creation but Brother Ignatius likes black for his sins), that he needed to lock himself into his room for an hour of prayer after the meetings. I wish I had that luxury, you too? But God calls us to take prayer to the streets, of which Maid Marlene is our patron saint!
To this end, St. Paul challenges, Rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstance. In other words, pray always. How does ongoing conversation with God benefit us? First, make sure you get the verse right.
Prayer on the Go: Prayer anyway, anyhow, anywhere.
First, prayer anyway. God is saying that you don’t need a special posture to pray. Back in the dark ages when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was in Church School, the teacher would say before every prayer, Now fold your hands and close your eyes. When LeRoy the pastor’s son, came back from seminary he would play with us before his prayer by saying, Now fold your eyes and close your hands. There is nothing wrong with a certain prayer posture: kneeling, hands raised, whatever helps you, but most of my praying is with my eyes open—which I find especially effective while driving!
Second, prayer anyhow. Jesus is showing us that we don’t need special prose to pray either. Back in the day, adults prayed, O Thou who makest the heavens, we praise Thee… you know, hymn language. Up until the 19th century they thought that New Testament Greek must be a special, heavenly language since they didn’t find any written Greek like it. Until they discovered spoken, street Greek. Turns out its an exact match! Even today I find that most who are afraid to pray out loud really just need to learn what to say to take off and land. You know, Dear God,… Amen. But in between all you need to do is to have a conversation with God: love that snow, Lord! Be with Aunt Tillie’s cancer…Pray with Matt Brianik once, he’ll learn ya. The Black Sioux said, For the Great Spirit is everywhere; he hears whatever is in our minds and hearts, and it is not necessary to speak to him in a loud voice, or we might add, in perfect language.
Lastly, prayer anywhere. The Spirit teaches you don’t need a special place to pray. Cathedrals, sanctuaries, cathedrals of creation like Sedona or a lakefront, are all nice but not necessary. As Marlene, you can’t pray always without praying everywhere.
Why? Because ceaseless prayer is, like we say in the benediction, prayer with the Christ who goes with you… before, beside, above, below. The Benedictine monks have told us for centuries loaborare est orare: to work is to pray. What? Because prayer is life and life is prayer! So, if you see life as prayer then three things will happen:
In God’s presence you will receive the present of the present. I mean prayer has helped me reduce plaque. I am one who brushes my teeth thinking of my next two things to do. My dental hygenist keeps saying, slow down… brush for 3 minutes… use an egg timer. So I’ve tried to brush prayerfully by being aware of what I’m doing. Last time she said, I don’t know what you’re doing, but KEEP DOING IT! I told her I’m brushing prayerfully. She didn’t know what to say. The desert fathers said Unceasing prayer heals the mind. You know why? Because God lives in the eternal now—all time is accessible to God right now—so ongoing prayer lets us savor the moment. It gives you the present of the present where the Spirit then leads you to either give thanks or rejoice.
Constant prayer helps you see all life as God’s gift. The promotion and the job loss, the A and the C-, the baby born and the grandmother dying, if accompanied with thank you, Lord, all become a gift. Augustine reminds us that when we do not pray, our hearts are trammeled in the direction of ungrateful possessiveness. This is why I recommend you give thanks before every meal, even if it’s just a moment of grateful silence, because it helps you see, even your liver and spinach as God’s gift. And, I contend that if you say grace, it will reduce obesity. Why? Because the more gratitude that fills our hearts the less need to stuff our stomachs to feel full. Life is God’s gift.
Lastly, frequent prayer builds up a Christ-centered confidence to bless the world. I was so proud of your all-time highest mission offering of $5K+ to Haiti! You decisively answered that challenge! What builds up the confidence of a strong response to bless the world? Nehemiah tells us the joy of the Lord is your strength. Just enjoy God’s adventure of renewing the world! And this joy will embolden you to the end. The story is told of a pastor who visited a dying saint. As the pastor stepped into the hospital room he saw the son, daughter and wife in tears, with the dying man masked with oxygen. Pastor suggested they hold his hand and sing his favorite hymns. They started with Victory in Jesus, my Savior forever… and continued with Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father… and ended with Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound. As they sang the mood lifted from despair to hope, and as they came to the last verse, When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun, the pastor noticed two things: confident smiles in the room and the saint’s heart rate flattening. They sent him off rejoicing.
So, I commend to you this week, prayer without ceasing. Amen.
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