This past Saturday I presented a workshop on prayer, sharing how we can really pray continually, as Paul instructed the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 5:17). As I prepared for the workshop, I considered opening the session by asking participants, “How would you describe your prayer life?”
That got me thinking about the term “prayer life.” As often as I have heard, or even used, that term, I never realized before last week how much of a misnomer it really is.
Using the term “prayer life” implies that prayer is a compartmentalized part of life. We “do” our praying, check it off the list, and move on to the rest of our life. If that is what prayer is, then Paul’s instruction is nearly impossible. We would have to give up work, family time and most everything else in order to pray continually.
If that is what we think prayer is, we have an inaccurate description of prayer. Prayer is life, not just a part of life. Prayer is living in the continual awareness that we are always in the presence of God. Thus all our activities are continual prayer offered to God if we are attuned to God’s continual outpouring of love over us.
To talk about “prayer life” is like talking about “breath life” or “heartbeat life.” We cannot compartmentalize our breathing into a certain block of time, or stop and start our heartbeat at our convenience. Our very breathing is a gift from God, and is offered back to God in gratitude without us even thinking about it. Our heart beats in praise to God. When we are aware of these great gifts, our awareness becomes a prayer to God for them.
We offer petitions to God, but these are only part of a life of prayer. Living a life fully alive and aware and in a state of gratitude makes all of life a prayer. When we live life this way, we cannot help but draw nearer to God.