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17th January: Pray Continually

Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

Jesus told his disciples that they should always pray and not give us. Lk 18:1 NIV.

How much space does prayer occupy in our lives? An old manual suggested four stages in our prayer life:

1. `Morning by morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; morning by morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation' (Ps 5:3 NIV).

2. `Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice' (Ps 55:17 NIV).

3. `Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws' (Ps 119:164 NIV).

4. `Pray continually' (1 Thess 5:17 NIV).

Prayer dominated the life of our Lord, and the lives of all the great men of the Bible and Church history. Perhaps we might feel that to pray continually is just for spiritual giants, but that is not so. Paul told all the Thessalonian Christians, `Pray continually...for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus'. God wants us all to know this dimension. What does it entail? We need of course a disciplined prayer structure, with set times (whenever possible) to begin and end the day with God. It will mean being up early enough to be undisturbed.

Between these times we are working, travelling, eating, socialising and so on. I was early advised to make my car a sanctuary. This has proved a blessing. Do you pray before checking a patient? I used to pray before intravenous injections, lumbar punctures and paracenteses. It helped. What about prayer regarding problems and relationships? Nehemiah practised this. When the kind asked, `What is it you want?', he said, `I prayed to God...and I answered the king' (Neh 2:4-5 NIV).

At other times prayer is not verbal but simply an attitude of trust and an awareness that God is with us. Even while concentrating hard on our work the sense of his presence remains. Praying continually is just walking with God throughout the day, taking him into all our activities and relationships.

Lord, teach us to pray.

Further reading: Ex 33:11-17.


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