The ‘Pray Continually’ Experiment

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The ‘Pray Continually’ Experiment

Have you ever wondered what God does with Himself between the periodic times we engage with Him in prayer?  I don’t mean to sound disrespectful.  I fully understand He has more going on than just attending to my little world.  But, think a moment.  What does He do about me–-my little world—after I’ve tacked ‘amen’ onto the end of a prayer and turned my attention to something else?  Would it be fair to say He attends to me with equal concentration whether I return it or not?

I borrowed a couple of books from the library the other day relieved to see they were both slim pocket-sized works.  You might call them primers on prayer, The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence (mid 1600s), and Letters by a Modern Mystic, by Frank C. Laubach (mid 1900s).

I’ve been floored by what I read.  Brother Lawrence decided to make his life an experiment.  He wanted to see if it was possible to live life fully aware of God’s presence with him.  He wanted to try to consciously attend to God’s presence with him throughout the day, every hour, every minute; every thought and every task was to be done in communication with God.

Lawrence summarizes, “My day-to-day life consists of giving God my simple, loving attention.  If I am distracted, He calls me back in tones that are supernaturally beautiful…my prayers consist of a simple continuation of this same exercise.  Sometimes I imagine that I’m a piece of stone, waiting for the sculptor.  When I give myself to God this way, He begins sculpting my soul into the perfect image of His beloved Son.”

He goes on to observe, “…we are content with too little.  God has infinite treasures to give us, he says.  Why should we be satisfied with a brief moment of worship?  With such meager devotion, we restrain the flow of God’s abundant grace.  If God can find a soul filled with a lively faith, He pours His grace into it in a torrent that, having found an open channel, gushes out exuberantly.”

Laubach seems to embrace the same life-experiment, saying, “This year I have started out trying to live all my waking moments in conscious listening to the inner voice, asking without ceasing, ‘What, Father, do you desire said?  What, Father, do you desire done this minute?’”

My questions are twofold:

 

  1. Ought we? — Should this ‘practice of the presence of God’ be a responsibility of followers of Christ?  We know it would be rude to ignore the presence of a close friend or family member who was by our side, wanting to communicate with us, aid us in our tasks, be our closest confidante.  But don’t we do the same to God much of our day? Or, is it enough to focus fully on Him in prayer times, then focus fully on our tasks and play in other times?
  2. Can we?Could this experiment actually work in you and me?  Being neither 17th century lay monks nor modern mystics, is it relevant and practical for us?  Is it possible to carry on life’s tasks in the 21st century and still “live all my waking moments in conscious listening” as Laubach describes?  Is this what the apostle Paul means when he exhorts us to “pray continually” (I Thess. 5:17)?  How does this look in day-to-day living?  I want to hear from other Christ-followers.  What is your experience regarding this staggering challenge?

 

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10 thoughts on “The ‘Pray Continually’ Experiment

  1. What an encouraging blog post! I find it difficult to keep God on my mind at all times but it’s definitely an “experiment” worth doing though.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Paul. The idea of the ‘experiment’ being “worth doing” speaks of costs and benefits. Jesus challenges us to realistically “estimate the cost” (Luke 14:28), something we may find ourselves too easily ignoring, I think. Perhaps we also underestimate the benefits…

      • And those verses that you pointed me to are even more challenging. Somethings have a minimal cost and an equal benefit. Here though, in verse 33, Jesus is asking for everything! A good reminder that He wants our all.

  2. Pingback: The ‘Pray Continually’ Experiment | NeedlePrayer

  3. 1) I think it ought to be a goal. But it isn’t easy. I do a craft ministry with the intention of praying while doing my needlework, and it is hard to consistently focus for that, let alone when I’m playing with the cats or talking politics with my husband.

    2) I believe it is _very_ relevant. Let’s share on how to make it work!

    This is a great idea to explore and I hope it blesses us all!

  4. Hmmm…. I have to ponder this a bit.

    As a child, even when my Mom wasn’t around, I was aware of her presence. Everything I did was based on her influence, sometimes conscious (Mom’ll kill me if I …), sometimes not. She was the hub to everything I did.

    As a wife and parent, even when my family isn’t present and I’m not consciously thinking of them, my heart and spirit are always aware that what I’m doing can affect them.

    As a child of God, I am learning to have the same relationship. If he is interested in me 24/7, then my relationship with him should be so deeply involved that it influences everything I do, everything I think, everything I consider.

    I started growing involvement a couple of years ago by consciously filling my day with thanksgiving: 1) When I had nothing pressing on my mind, and 2) When I was annoyed or upset.

    Over time, I’ve become much more aware of our Lord at any given moment. He is the hub to the spokes of my day-to-day life.

    Thanks for asking the question, Susan. I enjoyed mulling it over!

  5. Thank you for your thoughts. I am inclined, after reading how Brother Lawrence sought God’s presence, to experiment along the same lines. I believe Brother Lawrence is correct in stating that in order to love God we must first know him…communicate with him. I once read that the early monks were required to read all of the psalms every day. I wonder if Brother Lawrence did that.I was discussing this issue with a Baptist friend of mine who referred me to Philippians 3: 8-13 Keep the faith. In summary I see the goal as: 1) glorify God in all things 2) Peace..within oneself and with others and 3) work and pray. The main focus is always on God and like other saints he rejoiced in suffering. I think I am not at this point at this time.

    • Thank you for your interest. Yes, to love God we must first know Him, and yet also, to know Him we must first love Him. Truth has a way of tying together what seem to be opposing extremes and saying, “Yes, they are both true.” (I think someone once called this ‘dialectic tension’). I am in the midst of mulling over the idea of the cascading sequence of our relationship with God: what must begin with humility, continues with entrusting ourselves to Him (trust), believing everything He says , obedience to His commands (all about love), submission to His indwelling Spirit (doing deeds motivated by His love), and ultimately living life for His glory rather than for self’s pleasure. The River of God’s Love of which we become a part as we join the cascade of innumerable droplets (other believers) engulfs us.(Hannah Hurnard, in ‘Hind’s Feet on High Places’, alludes to this same allegory).Love is first, last and everything in between. What do you think?

  6. As a child I knew I was supposed to love God but I did not have a relationship with Him. Today, I believe all Christian churches realize the hunger in people to have a personal relationship with God and include this longing for knowing God in their revival efforts. I read Brother Lawrence’s book The Practice of the Presence of God and The Spiritual Maxims as a required assignment in the spiritual director course I am taking. I felt a connection to him as I read. His theory of all for all sits well with me. To answer your question, I am aware of my love for God now that I know him better through daily Bible readings, Bible courses and experiencing the love of Christians of various denominations. Like Brother Lawrence I want to be a doer and not just toss around ideas. I like to see God work in and through people in mighty ways and my prayer for the New Year is that He will use me more and more. Keep the faith. M. Lou.

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