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The Jesus Prayer (Part 2)

December 29, 2007

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THE CHALLENGE OF ST. PAUL

But this approach to the life of prayer has nothing to do with the Christianity of St. Paul, who urges the Christians of first century Thessalonica to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:1). And in his letter to Rome, the Apostle instructs the Christian community there to “be constant in prayer” (Rom. 12:12).

He not only demands unceasing prayer of the Christians in his care, but practices it himself. “We constantly thank God for you” (1 Thess. 2:13) he writes in his letter to the Thessalonian community; and he comforts Timothy, his “true child in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2) with the words: “Always I remember you in my prayers” (2 Tim. 1:3). In fact, whenever St. Paul speaks of prayer in his letters, two Greek words repeatedly appear: PANTOTE (pantote), which means always; and ADIALEPTOS (adialeptos), meaning without interruption or unceasingly.

Prayer is then not merely a part of life which we can conveniently lay aside if something we deem more important comes up; prayer is all of life. Prayer is as essential to our life as breathing. This raises some important questions. How can we be expected to pray all the time? We are, after all, very busy people. Our work, our spouse, our children, our school – all place heavy demands upon our time. How can we fit more time for prayer into our already overcrowded lives?

These questions and the many others like them which could be asked set up a false dichotomy in our lives as Christians. To pray does not mean to think about God in contrast to thinking about other things or to spend time with God in contrast to spending time with our family and friends. Rather, to pray means to think and live our entire life in the Presence of God.

As Paul Evdokimov has remarked: “Our whole life, every act and gesture, even a smile must become a hymn or adoration, an offering, a prayer. We must become prayer-prayer incarnate.” This is what St. Paul means when he writes to the Corinthians that “whatever you do, do it for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

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