One of the most impossible verses in the Bible to follow is, “Pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:17).” At least that’s what I used to think. How in the world, I used to wonder, could anyone conceivably pray continually, with no end? But two things began to change the way I understood this command. For one, I began to develop more hunger for God. As my relationship with Him deepened I found prayer to be more of a delight and less of a burdensome duty. Secondly, my understanding of prayer expanded to include more than a concentrated hour “on my knees” to more of a two-way friendship. As Brother Lawrence wrote in his amazing book The Practice of the Presence of God, “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God.”
Life is busy and full of distractions! While I desire to grow an actual, set-aside “prayer time” (and am doing so) there is definitely something freeing about recognizing we can cultivate our prayer life, and therefore relationship with Jesus, by learning to pray as we go. To do this, we have to think creatively and outside the box—yet also intentionally. Here are some thoughts to spur on your personal on the go prayer life:
Set Visual Reminders. In a season when I wanted to be more deliberate about praying for friends, I discretely wrote down the initials of one friend on each class notebook. Knowing I would have at least a few minutes of downtime in every class I’d pray for Sarah during History, Tim during Speech, Katie during Spanish, etc. Eventually I didn’t even need to look at my notebook to be reminded. Each class became associated with a specific friend and soon I was praying for them throughout my days. (Plus, it gave me something to do in my less-exciting classes)! Another example that comes to mind is the members of my church who currently pray Luke 10:02 (“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field”) every day at 10:02 a.m. and p.m. as their phones or watches remind them. There are other habits you can develop—praying for world peace when you see a certain bracelet on your wrist, praising God whenever you notice a specific landmark (for me it’s the mountains) or confessing any sin that comes to mind whenever you wash your hands, thanking the Lord that He washes our sins away.
Redeem Wasted Time. There are all kinds of statistics out there about how much of our lives we spend waiting in line, on hold, in traffic or for water to boil. The bottom line is: every day we waste time that could be used on something productive. And what more productive and beneficial activity than prayer? This is where prayer apps can come in handy or even prayer lists typed into your phone notes. Sometimes when I’m waiting in a doctor or dentist office I’ll pull out my phone and pray for a few items on my prayer list or make use of Voice of the Martyr’s great prayer resource www.icommittopray.com/ by posting a prayer response for a persecuted brother or sister in Christ. If I find myself somewhere without these physical prompts, I will literally shoot up random prayers of blessing for strangers I pass on the streets.
Mental Cues. At some point I realized I wasn’t being honest when I’d tell someone, “I’ll pray for you.” Too many times to count I’d end up forgetting. I began saying, “I’ll pray for you whenever God brings you to mind.” The crazy thing was, I began to sense that God was actually bringing people to my mind way more often! Rather than forgetting, He was helping me remember to pray! I’m developing a habit (still a work in progress) of praying for people as they drift in and out of my thoughts—even if I’m not exactly sure what to pray. This has been especially helpful when I feel some sort of relational tension with someone. All of our struggles should be triggers to pray. Whether we’re feeling lonely, confused, stressed out, worried or angry, our daily emotions can be potential footfalls of stumbling or opportunities to call upon the Lord for strength and help. As you identify various emotions or struggles, turn them into a conversation with Jesus.
Cultivate Intimate Friendship. Nothing is off limits when it comes to our on-going dialogue with Him. Ephesians 6:18 says, “Pray in the Spirit at all times, with all kinds of prayers and requests, with this in mind: be alert, and always keep on praying for all of the saints.” We can bring Him our messy prayers, our ranting prayers, our one-word prayers (like “help!”), our half-formulated prayers and our tossed-up casual prayers. He’s not judging. He just wants our hearts. I long to be like Moses who was referred to in Scripture as “the friend of God,” including by God Himself. Brother Lawrence muses, “He does not ask much of us…a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His graces… in the midst of your troubles to take solace in Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to Him. One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think.”