The shape of things becoming
"... pray continually..." 1 Thessalonians 5.17
'Thy Kingdom Come' notes for today commend the art of perpetual praying. This only makes sense if we can turn everything we do into a prayer, as it would be physically impossible to spend 24 hours a day on our knees, with our eyes shut and our hands clasped muttering devotions. For those with responsibilities it would also be impractical. At the same time perpetual praying would be meaningless if it only involved "baptising" what we already do by declaring that, from now on, our daily routines, from the 10 press-ups we do before breakfast to the junk TV watched in the evening for relaxation, are to be offered to God and thereby considered prayerful. No, a life of prayer has to be more sincere, profound and deliberate than that!
As well as praying continually, we are also advised that following Jesus will (not might, but will) attract persecution and, with it, suffering. Indeed the Lord himself stated "Unless you take up your cross on a daily basis, you cannot be my disciple". Is there some way in which suffering and prayer are related? Of course, we pray to be delivered from suffering and, where God says "No, my grace is sufficient", we pray to be fortified against it. But of course prayer is more than a means of escape or a means of enduring. It is transformative and that is because what we are escaping or enduring is formative, even transformative, of us as people devoted to Jesus and therefore in the process of being conformed into his image. And prayer is the oil which sustains the process.
The further we progress in living faithfully, the further out of our natural depth we go and the greater our dependance on God. And, as we proceed, it becomes increasingly instinctive to appeal to God for whatever the next step requires of us: strength, courage, wisdom, vision, forgiveness, grace, faith... Before we know it the life of faithful obedience, suffused in persecution and suffering, becomes a life of prayer - as our most necessary source of guidance and power...