Pray Without Ceasing
Billy Graham was interviewed at the age of 92. One of the questions he was asked was, “If you could do it all over again, would you do anything differently?”
His response was, “I would study more, pray more, travel less, take fewer speaking engagements. If I had it to do over again, I’d spend more time in meditation and prayer and telling the Lord how much I love him and adore him and looking forward to the time we are going to spend together for eternity.”
Nothing may be more important in the work we do than maintaining a meaningful spiritual life. It is in the work of maintaining our spiritual life that we are strengthened to do any of the other work we do as pastors and leaders of our congregations.
The story is told of a little river that said, “I can become a big river.” It worked hard, but there was a big rock. The river said, “I’m going to push around this rock,” and it got itself around the rock. Soon the river faced a big wall, and the river kept pushing this wall. Eventually, the river made a canyon and carved a way through. Then there was an enormous forest. The river said, “I’ll go ahead anyway and just force these trees down,” and the river did. The river stood on the edge of an enormous desert. The river said, “I’m going to go through the desert.” But the hot sand began to soak up the whole river…until it was only a small mud pool. Then the river heard a voice from above: “Just surrender. Let me lift you up. Let me take over.” The river said, “Here I am.” The sun then lifted up the river and made it into a huge cloud. He carried the river right over the desert and let the cloud rain down to make the fields far away fruitful and rich. (Nouwen, A Spirituality of Living)
Nouwen continues in “A Spirituality of Living” to say our lives are not measured by successes, but by fruits. The calling on our lives is to trust in a God who desires in us a deep relationship that will carry us through the parched and barren lands we so often face.
As United Methodists, nothing speaks to us more clearly about our spiritual life, than John Wesley’s words from A Plain Account of Christian Perfection:
“God's command to ‘pray without ceasing’ is founded on the necessity we have of his grace to preserve the life of God in the soul, which can no more subsist one moment without it, than the body can without air.
Whether we think of; or speak to, God, whether we act or suffer for him, all is prayer, when we have no other object than his love, and the desire of pleasing him.
All that a Christian does, even in eating and sleeping, is prayer, when it is done in simplicity, according to the order of God, without either adding to or diminishing from it by his own choice.
Prayer continues in the desire of the heart, though the understanding be employed on outward things.
In souls filled with love, the desire to please God is a continual prayer.
As the furious hate which the devil bears us is termed the roaring of a lion, so our vehement love may be termed crying after God.
God only requires of his adult children, that their hearts be truly purified, and that they offer him continually the wishes and vows that naturally spring from perfect love. For these desires, being the genuine fruits of love, are the most perfect prayers that can spring from it.”
To do the work we must do and to be the people God created us to be, we must remain in a relationship with God.