Prayer on the Run
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
-1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
In taking on prayer as a spiritual discipline this Lent, I’ve really begun to delve deep into what it means to pray, and what we are told about prayer through the Bible. Thankfully, the Scriptures are chock full of examples of prayers, commands about prayer, and uses of prayer.
The apostle Paul (whom I have a tenuous relationship with) urges the church at Thessalonica, and us, to “pray without ceasing.” But is that really possible? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, for me, it is nothing short of an impossibility. I mean, I have a life I need to lead—I couldn’t possibly spend all day in constant prayer. So how does one accomplish this task of praying without ceasing?
This questioning led me to a prayer practice that we discussed in my small group: “flash” prayer. To practice flash prayer, just simply go about your day and pray for the people whom you encounter along the way. Your eyes don’t have to be closed; you don’t have to say anything out loud—just remain in an attitude of prayer and pray for the situations and individuals that you come across. After learning more about flash prayer, I thought I would give it a try this week.
The interesting thing about prayer is that it is truly transformative. People and situations that I routinely encounter in my life take on new meanings. In praying for the homeless man who asks me for change on the way to the train, I ask that God would not only meet his physical needs but his spiritual ones. In passing the methadone clinic I ask that God would deliver those people from the chains of addiction. I bless and pray for the safety of the schoolchildren who play outside the Boys and Girls club on my street. I pray for my friends, ask God to bless them, and thank God for the blessings they are in my life. When I can’t find the words to pray, I know that the Holy Spirit prays on my behalf with “sighs too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)
I find that in response to this focus on prayer, I have started to change as well. As I continue to learn to pray I find that my perspective on people and situations changes. Short-term rewards are tempered with long-term vision: the eternal is emphasized over the ephemeral. I am more open to opportunities to pray for people, to bless people, and to be blessed. I wonder what it would be like if we all walked around praying for each other. Could we change the world by performing prayer on the run? I believe that we can.
Editor’s note: this piece was previously featured on another blog project I worked on at Holy Covenant UMC in Chicago, Illinois. During that year my Lenten focus was on prayer. If you’d like to get involved as a contributor for COTV’s Lenten Blogs, please feel free to contact me (Carlos) at firstname.lastname@example.org