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Elder's Corner: Pray Without Ceasing

Posted by Lee Ann Roeder on Mar 05, 2019

From Susie Pike, elder

“Pray Without Ceasing”

The more I engage with the Pilgrim family of Prayer Warriors–which includes many Warriors who are not Pilgrim members–the more I begin to understand the meaning of this verse found in I Thessalonians 5:17. If we look at this verse in context, it gives even more clarity:

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Every day the Prayer Warriors receive requests for prayer for themselves, as well as for others, many of whom we do not know personally. The requests touch on every aspect of the human condition: illness, fear, anxiety, injustice, birth, and death. Once, because I felt the shallowness of my own prayer life, I asked the Father, “Lord, break my heart for what breaks Yours.” I began to not only see more of the effects that sin has wrought on God’s perfect creation, but also to be broken by the awareness of the part I have played in it. Those of you who receive the prayer requests, and who willingly respond to “carry one another’s burdens” in prayer to our Father’s throne of grace, might also feel the same heaviness that I do when all the pain, suffering, and injustice of this present darkness seem to overwhelm my sense of God’s presence. Rates of addiction, anxiety disorders, suicides and depression are on the rise even as medication usage for such disorders are at an all-time high. And while those in both medical and psychological health fields use their expertise to address these problems, few if any seem to be able to address the soul sickness at the root of our condition.

In the November 2018 copy of Living Lutheran magazine, ELCA pastor and practicing psychotherapist Jon W. Magnuson wrote an article entitled “A Kingdom Within," in which he warns that the Church and culture have abandoned spirituality, and that we need to begin reclaiming it. He writes, “Now social justice and institutional survival are major themes across the ELCA, and in many congregations, spirituality is not a priority. We pay a price for that.” And in the February 14, 2019, devotional reading of Christ in Our Home, Karen Minnich-Sadler writes, “Living without a sense of God’s presence makes us feel dried up, as though no refreshment in the world can satisfy our thirst. When we do not nourish the connection God has with us, we quickly find out our own resources will take us only so far... and there is no place to go when life becomes more than we can bear.” Both of these articles point out the need to have spiritual grounding in a world that is so desperately broken and marred by sin. Both authors point to the fact that nurturing our spiritual life with God is vital to our well-being. Created in the image of God, we know in our innermost being that we were meant for something better.

Richard Foster, in his book entitled Prayer, writes, “I am sure you sense the desperate need for Unceasing Prayer in our day. We pant through an endless series of activities with scattered minds and noisy hearts. We feel strained, hurried, breathless. Thoughts dart in and out of our minds with no rhyme or reason. Seldom can we focus on a single thing for long. Everything and anything interrupt our sense of concentration. We are a distracted people.” Foster goes on to say, “Unceasing Prayer has a way of speaking peace to the chaos.” The same God who created the world out of chaos wants to establish His peace in our hearts. Is there not inside each of us a deep longing for His continuous presence? It is His Spirit calling to us, drawing us into a deeper relationship with Him.

Our Lenten journey reminds us to seek the Lord’s presence, through prayer and meditating on the words of Scripture, asking the Lord to give us an awareness of His power and love. And as we grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord, we will be able to reach out to others and point them to Jesus as well. Then we “will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream, and will not fear when the heat comes, but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.”  (Jeremiah 17:8)

Please join us at 6:30 Wednesday evenings during Lent as the elders share different aspects of prayer.