Some of my best moments arise out of surprising conversations. I had merely said “hi.” To a friend when he popped out with a question which had obviously been burning with in. “Pray without ceasing! How am I expected to do that?” I was caught a bit off guard by the unexpected question but intrigued by the earnestness in which it was posed. Partly to buy time I fell back on my time tested strategy of asking a clarifying question. “What about praying without ceasing is your big challenge?” My friend went on to describe his idea of what prayer was. It was a very ‘formal’ ‘Our father…” kind of praying, where one must articulate one’s praise and petition and couch it all in ‘holy’ language. My friend rightly identified this as exhausting and unsustainable.
I began to describe to him a day Linda and I had spent going to Fundy National Park. We spent the whole day together. We did not talk the whole time but we spent it in each other’s company. When a song I liked or disliked came on the radio, I would share that thought. When I saw something interesting ahead, I would point it out. When I inevitably thought of a terrible pun, I shared it. When we walked through the bush if I heard a bird I asked her about it. I pointed out flowers and asked their names. When I had an idea about some question we were facing I posed it. At the end of the evening after we returned home I was grateful that we had spent a great day together. This was just one of thousands of days we have spent together over the years. When we were first dating we both had to work harder at filling the ‘silent’ moments but now we can spend hours,, together, in companionship without words.
I expressed to my friend that spending our day with God can be like this. During our initial relationship with God, prayer is formal and lacks companionable amiability but as “we draw near to God He draws near to us”. We no longer rely solely, or even primarily on formal discourse. We ‘walk’ and share along the way, listening, and at the end of the day grateful for spending another day together. Such ‘prayer without ceasing’ is not a burden but a blessing.
My friend commented that he had never thought about it like that and perhaps it wasn’t such a daunting challenge after all. I admitted that it was still a challenge because I am tempted often to ‘walk’ alone rather than in company with God. Especially when I am angry or hurt. I am afraid He will challenge me to forgive and to love. Revelation 3:16 pictures Jesus at a door knocking. Ever the gentleman he awaits an invitation. I find it helpful to, early each day, invite him to join me on a walk through the day.
I am often blessed by these serendipitous encounters. If I hadn’t had so much experience of God and his ways I might think they were wonderful coincidences but the more I walk with him the more of these coincidences occur.