A few years ago, a group of us worked our way through the book, “Marks of a Methodist.” The book was based on *John Wesley’s Five Marks, one of which is “to pray constantly.” That brought up a considerable amount of conversation about how anyone could possibly do that. Not having any special knowledge of the workings of John Wesley’s mind, I can only conjecture a bit on what he was trying to say about prayer.
I know that when one of my children is having trouble or mired in a crisis, the concept of praying constantly isn’t hard to fathom. Prayers flow quickly and frequently throughout the day when I’m worried about a loved one. I think when the scripture teaches us to “pray without ceasing” as it does in I Thessalonians 5:17, that it means to have an attentiveness to the world around us . . . To be conscious of the gentle nudges God gives, to open our hearts to love with God’s love, those who we encounter. It means to pay attention to the hurt and pain in our world and pray for those impacted by that pain. Praying constantly means to dream God’s dreams and to pray those dreams into reality.
There is a lot about prayer that I don’t understand. What happens in prayer is a mystery. We are encouraged, strengthened and loved in prayer. Both in the praying and in the being prayed for. I don’t know how or why I should be able to sense another person’s prayer for me, but I do. There are times when I’m baffled by a situation in my life, and in the time of prayer come to a moment of resolution and peace. Thoughts flow into my mind and spirit. I decide to take in a retreat I was avoiding, and discover grace in that decision.
To pray constantly, opens a portal between us and God. In prayer we are led to love one another. Something in us changes when we pray. Letting God into our heart and spirit touches a part of us held as sacred space. Maybe, what all of us need is a little more prayer. Friends holding us in prayer and each of us praying for those in our circle of care. What the world needs is each of us, praying for God’s dream for our world to be made real. Jesus said it another way, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”
*John Wesley was the founder of the Methodist movement.
A version of this post was first published January 18, 2016 as “The Mystery of Prayer”