I’ve really got to come up with better titles for my posts.

We tend to think of prayer as something we do for a given amount of time:  Now I’m praying, now I’m not.  We don’t think of it as an ongoing conversation, and yet we see it described that way in the Bible.  I Thessalonians 5:17 says “Pray without ceasing.”  In Luke 18:1, Jesus begins a parable to make the point that we should always pray.  Philippians 4:6 points out that prayer “in all things” is key to receiving the “peace that passes understanding,” and Ephesians 6:18 encourages us to pray on all occasions with all kinds of prayers.

There are, of course,  times when we stop doing other things and focus entirely on prayer.  Jesus Himself modeled this by frequently going out to “desolate places” to pray, but He also said that He did nothing except what He saw His Father doing, and it’s easy to imagine Him walking through towns, constantly speaking to His Father, constantly listening.  When you’re with other people, it’s not unusual to find yourself talking with them even while you’re doing other things, but, especially with your loved ones, there are times to stop everything else and focus on them.

I’m beginning – only just beginning – to get an idea of what ceaseless prayer might look like.  It means, for one, giving up the notion that God only wants to hear about the big stuff.  We have to do this anyway if we are to accept God’s invitation to pray “in all things.”  I still never tire of hearing about the tiny details of my daughter’s day at school, and as God is a loving Father, we can believe that He feels the same about us.

Ceaseless prayer also means that we have to learn how to be focused, which is especially difficult for we who find ourselves in such a noisy culture where psychologists have had to invent the phrase “continuous partial attention.”  This is where I’ve struggled the most this week.  I routinely accuse myself of having ADD anyway, and the past few days of this Experiment have served to illustrate my point.  I get so easily distracted from prayer, and many minutes will go by at a stretch before I realize that I haven’t uttered a single thought to God.  It takes so much effort to stay focused that there have been times when, frustrated after another lapse, I thought “Why am I bothering to do this?  I should just stop and go back to my normal prayer routine.”  Everything is designed to compete for our attention and I think we’ve been trained to be distracted.

And yet, what I’m talking about and striving for is a form of continuous partial attention, though maybe a more purposeful and focused version of it.  The goal is to learn, as some claim to have learned, to go through the day in uninterrupted dialogue with God about whatever I am doing or thinking.  It doesn’t seem that hard, stated so plainly.  After all, if I had another human with me everywhere I went, I could easily discuss with them everything going through my head (though most humans would probably enjoy a lobotomy more) even as I’m thinking, planning, and doing.   Amazingly, the Creator of the universe invites us into this kind of conversation.

I probably won’t write again until after Easter, since I work for a church and have a pretty full plate.  Before I go, however, I want to invite you again to join me, and to take up the Experiment for yourself.  This is more than just a conversation.  It’s God’s invitation to share in His will being carried out, His Kingdom coming, through us.