We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 NLT
I enjoy running “Prayer Clinics”. These are not opportunities to give and receive prayer, instead they are an opportunity to talk through the questions we carry about prayer. These questions are numerous and diverse. So much of what Christians are taught is about the need, even the priority of prayer. Little is said about our experience and understanding of prayer, especially when our expectations are disappointed, our understanding confused.
Paul gives thanks for the Thessalonian believers, writing that he prays for them all constantly. But it can be hard to imagine what constant prayer looks like. If it were to demand our full attention, we would find we could do little else in our day other than pray. Some traditions adopt what I call background prayers, such as the Jesus prayer. Thinking of an individual or group they are the intention as we repeat the familiar words, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (see Luke 18:13). With repeated usage we find ourselves praying these words quietly and continuously even as we focus on other responsibilities.
Prayer can always give thanks for faithful work, acts of love and enduring hope. Too often prayer becomes a list of instructions directed to God asking for him to perform. At times someone may have made their request known to God and we can include that in our prayer, yet we can always thank God for the faith, love and hope expressed by others and pray these attributes might continue and increase. Such prayers are relevant regardless of an individual’s circumstances.
Too often prayer is taken as a tool to manoeuvre God and realise my ambitions. Prayer is a gift to the Church to facilitate wholesome lives in service of God’s forever kingdom.
Could your prayer life move away from a focus on lists of requests to give thanks for the lives of others?
May faith, hope and love spring up in the lives of all those for who I pray.