This week’s lectionary texts are:
Judges 4:1-7 and Psalm 123, Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18 and Psalm 90:1-8, (9-11), 12, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Matthew 25:14-30.
This is week 36 of the Living Room Liturgies. For this week, again, I have decided to offer some thoughts and a practice.
What does it mean to pray continuously, ceaselessly, all the time? How do we do that without coming across as awkward and insincere to the people around us? How do we live out an authentic lifestyle of ceaseless prayer?
I have always been intrigued by the verse in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. In the NRSV, it says, “Pray without ceasing.” Other translations say, “pray continually” or “never stop praying.” This was one of the first verses I memorized in Sunday school. To be honest, I think it was among the first verses I memorized because of its brevity more than its theological content; nonetheless, it is a verse that I have pondered, attempted to put into practice, and wrestled with many times throughout my life. How can we actually pray all the time?
I think about our bodies. There is so much that happens constantly, rhythmically, and involuntarily. Our bodies are comprised of intricate systems—many of which work ALL the time. Constantly. Without stopping. Our hearts beat without us consciously telling them to do so. We digest food without reminding our stomach and intestines to get to work. It’s amazing! Our body systems work together naturally and incessantly.
Then there are those things that we don’t start out knowing how to do well, or at all. Things like, riding a bike or learning how to swim. The balance and coordination it takes to ride a bicycle is learned over time. Often that learning process comes with some bumps and bruises. It’s not unusual to crash a few times before we get the hang of it, but with practice, we get better at it. The same can be said for aspects of a lifestyle of prayer. As we practice prayer in our lives, we learn that there is a balance, a rhythm, and a posture to maintaining consistency in it.
Maybe our prayers are more than just words. What if our actions are prayers? As Mother Teresa of Calcutta famously said, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” She lived this out daily. She taught in a convent school in Calcutta for about 17 years, but the suffering and poverty she saw outside the convent walls moved her deeply. She was compelled to leave the convent school and devoted herself to working among “the poorest of the poor” in the slums of Calcutta. She saw those in need around her and moved toward them with no funding, but instead teaching skills, a heart to love the children in the slums, and trust that God would provide for her. She started an open-air school for slum children and, step-by-step, volunteers and financial support started coming in. Soon, she was able to extend the scope of her work. Small things. Great love. Small prayers. Continuously.
So, how do we really do this life of prayer? If we are to pray constantly, doesn’t it make sense that prayer, like life, is multifaceted? That it’s the collection of small things equaling something great? There is time for all prayers—for silence, intercession, fasting, praying in community, praying in solitude, speaking our prayers, screaming our prayers, or not even having words for our prayers but trying to live them out each day. What if prayer is more than folding our hands and bowing our heads at the dinner table and at bedtime?
A life of continual prayer is the recognition that every breath, every step, every word, every action is an ongoing conversation with the living God who is actively at work in us. Constantly. Repeatedly. Unceasingly.
For today’s liturgy, I invite you to pray with your body through a prayer walk.
Walking Prayer is simply praying as you walk through a community. It involves praying with all of your senses – sight, sound, smell, touch, etc. Take your time, and pay attention to what is around you. Listen and pray as you walk.
Create a path you will walk. Decide on several stops along the way. As you go, pray for the places you will pass on your prayer walk route. You may choose to pray for one of the following items as you walk on your route.
- For justice and peace in the world.
- For the United States and the people in this country.
- For the poor and oppressed.
- For the Church around the world. Pray for its ministry and those who minister.
- For the nations and those in authority.
- For the community in which you live. Pray for your neighbors. For those who work in your community.
- For those who are making big decisions this week. Pray for God’s direction, provision, and peace in their lives.
- For those who are sick or hurting.
- For those who lead in your community, in your state, in your country, in the world.
- For those who teach.
- For students.
As a closing prayer to your prayer walk, pray:
As a potter fashions a vessel from humble clay,
You form us into a new creation.
Shape us, day by day,
Through the cross of Christ your Son,
Until we pray as continually as we breathe
And all our acts are prayer;
Through Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.