Learning to Pray Flash Prayers – III

DEAR GRANDSON:

Whatever could the Apostle Paul have meant when he wrote to the Thessalonians, “Pray without ceasing?” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). That his readers should do nothing else but pray? Not likely.

Yet, the Jerusalem Bible has his words, “Pray constantly,” And J. B. Phillips paraphrases it, “Never stop praying.”

How about this: “Always keep conversation with the Lord at the ready in your heart; and in the unfolding of the day, be quick to turn any blessing or need into a prayer.”

Think of Nehemiah, cupbearer to Artaxerxes of Persia. He learned that the few occupants back in the Jerusalem he loved were desolate and the city itself in ruins and he sat down and wept. The king saw sadness on Nehemiah’s face and asked what it meant.

In the moment, Nehemiah, “… prayed to the God of heaven,” and then he answered the king …” (Nehemiah 2:4,5)

The king’s question, Nehemiah’s prayer and the king’s answer to Nehemiah, all three, seem to have happened at the same moment. Such praying was instant to him.

We know for Nehemiah the normal course of his life made prayer habitual. Look, for example, at how extensive and impassioned his prayer was otherwise in the previous chapter (Nehemiah 1:4-11)

Or consider the case of the evangelist, Stephen, who died as a martyr. The Scriptures say, “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this against them.’ When he had said this he fell asleep” (Acts 7:59). Stephen died praying.

It seems appropriate to assume when the Apostle Paul said, “Pray without ceasing,” he meant both kinds of prayer — first the habitual, daily, ordered prayer that frames our lives, and then the numerous, instantaneous flash prayers launched daily for the thoughts, encounters, interactions, and issues of any moment.

Jesus assured his distraught disciples they always would have access to him. He told them, “I will not leave you orphaned…” (John 14:18). In other words, through the Holy Spirit and by prayer, the resurrected Jesus would be accessible to them all the time.

And he assured them that his Father would make his home with believers. (John 14:23) How could our God offer us greater intimacy than that for our flash prayers? So here are the kind of prayers we can practice:

Flash prayers of affirmation: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” “Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory.” “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” “The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad.” Let such rise at any moment.

Flash prayers of petition: “God be merciful to me a sinner.” “May my associates see the joy of the Lord in me today.” “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.” Strengthen me to be honest in all my dealings. May I be as light to my fellow workers today. Keep me faithful in the hour of temptation. Always appropriate.

Flash prayers for others: Bless my family near and far. Remember my acquaintances in the hospital or nursing home today. Give heed to my unanswered prayers as I repeat them. Give strength and wisdom to my pastor. May those I touch see your grace in me today. Remember leaders of both church and nation. May they seek your wisdom in all things.

Examples: we might entreat for mercy when driving past the site of an accident on the way to work; when an unbelieving neighbor greets us over the back fence; when we note a student’s sad expression in the classroom; when the little children seem unconsolable; before and during a hard exam; or upon receipt of great good news.

We may not be put on the spot like Nehemiah or called to die for our faith like Stephen, but there are many issues each day that invite flash prayers. They can become a style of life.

If we cultivate this habit the depth and richness of our faith and our adequacy for life will be enhanced.

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Photo credit: leadfoot (via flickr.com)

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One thought on “Learning to Pray Flash Prayers – III

  1. I value family, friendships and human contact , spend time with others most days . But I live alone and spend most of my life alone .Yet ,since Christian new birth, I never feel isolated, alienated or lonely . I think this is because, when alone, I sense God’s presence most of the time.

    When I don’t sense God ,that’s i never by conscious choice, but when I’m not alert or diverted by distractions .I’ve been thinking about this ,in relation to flash prayers.

    Since new birth. I’m regularly in a kind of inner conversation with the Lord. I honour Him ,love Him, need Him in order to live well. I never want to feel separate from The Lord . It seems to me , feels like, the Lord is the centre of my being which I cannot do without. This fills me with awe and respect, with sudden warm feelings of affection. I am aware of God’s glory ,Christ’s loving sacrifice.

    I know God is omnipresent, ever-present , always here, but sometimes I lose sense of it. This is when He is here but I am not ,I think ,not vice versa. For spells I forget I’m in contact. , drift into unawareness.

    At other times external or even internal distractions cause me to lose contact. The worst kind of distracting hindrances are those sudden traumas like bereavement or accident , thankfully very rare shocks to the spirit..

    At such various times, inner conversation with the Lord is lost for a time. This ,never for more than 6 or 7 hours ,thanks to regular daily prayer – times .Their arrivals brings one back from distraction to alertness.

    It’s only during inalertness , distraction or hindrance , that fall from inner peace comes .Sometimes this heralds a vague melancholy ,sometimes dull sloth , restless irritableness , or just discomfort in one’s skin : those little, unpleasant negative thoughts and feelings.

    On rare occasions these spells become long .One forgets. It’s like a dispiriting sleeping sickness. Until the next prayer arrives to awaken .That’s how it is for me.

    Like all Christians, I want to live a good life and die a good death .That means living in Christ and dying in Christ.Christ is our way to God,He said so.

    “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’’ John 14:6 NIV

    So I don’t ever want to lose contact with God , lest I fall away from the good life or leave myself unaware , unprepared for the good death .For who knows when death may come,’’like a thief’’, in the night, a burglar.

    The Bible makes us aware .For our inner life and our outer life , living and working in obedience to Christ ‘s laws and God’s Will , are guided by the Bible,that external Word of God that becomes internal ,a part of us.

    The continuity of inner conversation with God ,I take to be something like Paul’s ‘prayer without ceasing’ or the ‘never stop praying’ call in J.B.Phillip’s paraphrase Bible.

    The inner conversation with God ,only broken by unwakefulness and distraction , never broken by the perfect Christian, facilitates these flash prayers you speak of ,pastor Don.

    I call these flash prayers’ shooting prayers’ .I imagine shooting stars directed to our Lord .

    They can be sudden petitions ,or a ‘sorry’ of contrition for a transgression or temptation suddenly realized or encountered .They can be spontaneous thankyous , for a bright sunrise or snatch of melodious bird song come to ear.They can be an expression of love and adoration suddenly come to heart ,with warm frisson.

    For sure, constant inner conversation with God, as near constant as can be achieved ,enhances life . When the habit is established, it becomes needful ,essential to our way of life,our great blessing.

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