So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV)
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 ESV)
What are the things we do without thinking? If we are alive, then we breathe and our heart beats. These are not conscious activities in that they happen whether I am awake or asleep, focused or distracted. Most of the time I’m not consciously aware of either my breathing or my heart beating. When I am it generally means that I have exerted some great effort or something is wrong. I didn’t have to learn how to do these things and when they stop I will no longer be alive.
There may have been a few throughout history who have achieved this kind of unceasing prayer, but I’m confident they are the exception. For the rest of us, moving prayer from the mind to the heart, making prayer natural and constant requires discipline. Nouwen provides two examples, and then acknowledges that neither of them is practical for the busy Christian in today’s world.
What are we to do? Paul’s instruction is clear. My wife and I had an interesting discussion yesterday on a related topic. The message for the morning wrapped up a long series on the Sermon on the Mount. You can listen to it here. In it, our minister did an excellent job of exploring the tension between grace and action. The conclusion of the message was that we need to try harder. Initially, I disagreed. As I continued thinking about what he said and what my wife said I had to acknowledge that they were right. Even “abiding in Christ” requires effort. While I think Paul is describing an attitude for life in Christ more than a checklist of specific actions, it still requires intentionality to develop the attitude.
In 1 Thessalonians Paul is describing the results of what Jesus describes in John 15, staying connected to the vine. This does require intentional effort. We are easily distracted and quickly disconnected. What are we to do? For those of you with smart phones you might set an alarm to go off every hour to remind you to stay connected to Jesus and get in the habit of saying a quick prayer every time it goes off. If you’re like me and don’t have a smart phone, you might need something else. How about a quick prayer every time you switch activities?