How do you build a prayer life? Start with a moment that can transform an hour.

I am continuing to walk through the Year of Praying Continually. I made a vow that through the course of 2014, I would devote myself to building a life of being and remaining in communion with God. I want to get to the point where it feels odd not to be attentive to God's presence and will in any particular moment.

Is this a crazy idea? No. Not crazy. Just not tried very often in today's Western church (for reasons I will talk about some other time). Paul instructed people to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and I don't think he was asking them to do something he wasn't already doing. Paul's master, Jesus, said he only did what the Father gave him to do (John 5:19) and said what the Father gave him to say (John 12:50). I don't think Jesus was exaggerating to impress people (since I have yet to find a single scene in the Gospels where he does anything to impress anyone). He was stating his normal way of living -- paying attention to the Father and what was going on around him. Maybe he simply asked, "Father, what do you want to do or say in this situation?"

We depend on indicator gauges in our cars. They tell us important things like how fast we are going and how much gas is left in the tank. I am becoming more and more convinced that prayer is the real indicator gauge of our relationship with God. If someone talks a good game but doesn't actually pray, then I would gently suggest that he talk less until he prays more. Or talk about the journey into prayer in humble ways.

I want to quote author Annie Dillard to ask a pointed question about prayer.
"How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. What we are doing with this hour and with that one is what we are doing." (Quoted by Robert Benson in In Constant Prayer, 88).
If "what we are doing with this hour and that hour" is what we are actually doing -- as opposed to what we think we should do or wish we were doing -- then if we are not connecting with God to some extent in this hour and that hour, we are not actually praying. The person who actually prays, prays in this hour and that hour. (Maybe not talking to God continually for the entirety of every hour. But even a brief, little prayer can change the complexion of a whole hour. Prayer breeds attention to God. And that's the track to be on.)

If Dillard is right, then we must conclude that the life of continual prayer is the only actual prayer life there is. Anything less than that and we find ourselves in the position of aspiring to have a prayer life. But if aspiring is where we are, then that is where we are. And if a prayer life is where we want to go, then the best time to start is in this hour. Ready to start? Here we go: "Father, what do you want to do or say in this situation?"


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