Pray Continually

In today’s world, it’s hard enough for us to comprehend how to carve out 10-15 minutes for a meal, let alone engaging in persistent and continual prayer. We stumble over not only when, but how as well. It’s hard for us to put into words what’s on our heart. We labor to put into words the thoughts which have been barely formed in our heads. We struggle with the what, how, why, when, where – everything! It’s important and we don’t want to get it wrong, right?

But, prayer doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as a few short words or sentences said on the fly. It’s about pouring out one’s heart to God in whatever number or type of words that are needed. I think that’s one of the things that Jesus was getting at when he told the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican. The Pharisee’s prayer was long and complicated, verbose and self-serving. It was more about how great he was in comparison to others and less about the greatness of God. The publican’s prayer, on the other hand, was simple, direct, heart-felt and honest. He would not even look up to the heavens, and he spoke directly to God about his own shortcomings, his own weakness, his own need for forgiveness and mercy.

“God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Luke 18:13

And that’s the point. It’s not about elaborate prose or flowery words expressed in perfect iambic pentameter. Prayer doesn’t have to be complex. The attitude with which a prayer is rendered is way more important than the manner in which it is delivered. The crux of the story is that when we pour out our heart to God in simple, straight-forwardness, what we’re really asking is for the Spirit of God to help us in our weakness. It recognizes that we cannot do it on our own, that we need God’s help, and this is how our prayer becomes more acceptable to God. In Psalm 51, David begins his prayer with this simple request:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;

Psalm 51

And while David’s prayer is a bit longer than a few simple words, it is none the less a heart-felt outcry of brokenness, of sorrow, of repentance.

A simple prayer I pray continually, almost every day, especially when I come up against some of the crazy things people say and do, is “Lord, help me…” It’s just three words, but those little words can help me; to have courage when I need it, to practice patience when I need it, to inspire me to hold my tongue when I need reminding that words can be weapons, to “have compassion on them” when I’m frustrated, to refocus.

One of the most profound prayers in the entire Bible was uttered by Jesus and is just 10 words long.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Luke 23:34

~SLM

When in Rome Part 1: According to His Purpose

Sometimes it’s hard to see the purpose in the world around us. We aren’t able to understand how all the pieces fit together, and what we can comprehend, doesn’t make any sense to us, yet in Romans 8:28 Paul says this: “And we know in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Who is to say that the trials we face cannot be for the betterment of ourselves or someone else. We learn so much more about whom we are and the nature of life through our difficulties, our struggles. We cannot know how our burdens and triumphs may influence others, and likewise, we cannot know how our words or actions affect those with whom we interact.  If we know not sorrow, how can we know what true joy looks like? How can we be grateful for all that we are given, our mental and spiritual gifts as well as the physical, if we have not known hunger? And, if we are certain that God’s plan is good, we can go down that road, the one that’s uncertain and unsettling, where dangers may lurk and sorrow may live, facing incredible odds. We can walk through the fiery furnace with peace in our hearts, and praise on our lips, knowing that:

“Lord is our keeper, we have everything we need. He lets us rest in fertile fields of green and leads us to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives us new strength, and guides us to the right paths, as he has promised. Even if we go through the deepest darkness, we need not be afraid, for the Lord is with us, His shepherd’s rod and staff protect us.” (Psalm 23)

No matter what happens in life, what joys or sorrows besot us, we can rest assured that what we face is what God has intended so that He may accomplish His good purpose.

~SLM