“Pray without ceasing.” ~I Thessalonians 5:17
Let me state the obvious: When we are much in need we should pray.
Having grown up in the church, I have heard so much about prayer. Yet it remains a bit of an enigma to me. I’ve heard all the definitions. Followed all the formulas. Read the books. Listened carefully when others pray. Yet prayer remains as mysterious today as always. Paul further complicates my thinking by telling me do this thing ‘without ceasing;’ incessantly.
Here is one thing that I know about much-in-need moments: They will shatter your definitions. Everything you’ve heard, memorized, and emulated will fail you. Much-in-need moments cut through the related matters and fling us head first into the heart of the matter.
The three synoptic gospels tell a story of a woman (Mt. 9:19-21; Mk. 5:24-34; Lk. 8:42-44) in desperate need. She’s tried everything to remedy her situation only to have her need grow greater. She hears that Jesus—a miracle work, one with greater power than they have seen before in the likes of her town—is present. On this report, she sinks all her hope in him having a solution that all others have lacked.
She seeks him out. This is risky—by the mandates of the law, her condition of need has separated her from her community. She knows she’s is unclean, but hope keeps whispering, “He can do something about this.” She stays in his presence long enough to see that indeed he is not only powerful; he is gentle and kind. Just like that, she finds her heart flying forward to brush up against the fringe of his cloak.
She touches him. Suddenly the thickness of the crowd, of life, narrows to just one desperate woman and Jesus. It’s just the two of them, working out the details of life together. He asks a question: “Who touched me?” She answers by telling him the whole truth. He gives her peace and a remedy for her affliction. In His presence, she finds hope.
That is prayer to me. Walking in the presence of Jesus. Falling into the touch of His power, desperate for what only He can give, as the world and its cares and its troubles gets silenced in the hush of his questions and his patient pause to listen while we tell the whole truth about ourselves. It’s a knowing that He’s the only one who will hear our plea correctly, understand it completely, and provide sufficiently. Everyday.
Incessantly seeking the presence of Jesus, throwing all our confidence on Him and His power to meet our much-in-need moment. We might use words. Or, offer silence as we place a broken, humbled heart at his feet. This is to pray without ceasing.
It might happen in the quiet of the morning in time set aside for worship. It might happen in the rush of midday when life is blowing off steam like a cranky teapot. It might happen at night when darkness closes in on wishful thinking that will not find a reality in your today.
When your heart is breaking. Your body hurts. Your children won’t stop whining. Your friends don’t understand.
For anytime and anywhere, a much-in-need heart can throw itself upon the sustaining hope found only at the feet of Jesus.