Paul Olsen

on the way…not there yet

October 29 2021

Eternal Spirit of the living Christ
I know not how to ask or what to say
I only know my need as deep as life,
and only you can teach me how to pray.
Come, pray in me the prayer I need this day…
(ELW #402)

Pray without ceasing, the apostle Paul told the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 5:17),
or as other translations have it, Pray constantly.

What in the world was he thinking?

That can’t mean walking around with your eyes closed,
bumping into things all the time.
It can’t mean muttering some petition
over and over under your breath.
Prayer can’t be that crazy.

Although there are some excellent spiritual practices that do just that—repeating throughout the day, as often as is possible the same short phrase, a phrase that keeps you centered on the presence of God in your life and in the world around you (like the ancient Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”; or centering prayer, which encourages the use of just one word that clears every distraction and brings your heart and mind back to focus on God).

But what if prayer never ceased for you?

What if prayer wasn’t just asking God for stuff?
What if prayer was the way you kept a relationship alive,
like the way you maintain your best relationships,
making time to talk about important things
or nothing at all in particular?

The way lovers do,
the sometimes quiet, sometime silent communication,
the shared presence of one another,
the comfort of being together?

The words you say, and the words you don’t say?
The way knowing you are there,
or will be, when we both get back home,
makes me less alone,
stronger somehow?

What if prayer was remembering
who you are and whose you are?

What if you got nothing out of prayer,
but you could give to it everything you’ve got,
every weight and every blessing?

What would it mean to live a life of prayer?

What would your like look like if your ‘prayer life’
wasn’t just relegated to a corner of your schedule
(on the days when it gets in there at all)?

What if everything you do was a prayer,
or formed by prayer,
addressed to God, consulted God,
lifted up to God, given to God …
before you ever did it, and while you’re doing it, and after it’s done?

What if every person you met became a prayer you offered?
What if you became the prayer someone else had been asking for?

What if prayer was just
thank you,
over and over again,
come what may,
thanks and thanks and thanks again,
for the good and for the bad,
because God must be in it somewhere,
and what good couldn’t come out of that?

What if prayer was the constant in your life,
in the midst of every inconstant thing?
The normal,
when you’ve lost the old normal,
and don’t yet know what the new normal will be?

What if prayer wasn’t something you did at all,
just the recognition of God praying in you,
the very Spirit of God
bearing witness with our spirit
that we are children of God
(Romans 8:16)?

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