Pray Without Ceasing

When I was a young girl growing up in the Texas Panhandle I spent many late summer afternoons with my brothers, fishing and daydreaming on the banks of a small playa lake near our home. If the fish were not biting, my brothers would often skip rocks across the surface of the water. Each bounce of those stones would send dozens of tiny ripples rolling across that little lake. My rocks usually hit the water with a splash and sank quickly to the bottom, setting larger waves in motion.

As parents we sometimes feel like that stone that hits the surface and plummets quickly to the bottom, unable to skip along the top for even a moment like the others around us. We have all had those days that seem to unravel before they even begin. Sometimes it can feel as though our whole week—or even our whole year—has unraveled, and we wonder what we are even doing. Our children sin, we sin, circumstances beyond our control disrupt our lives, the bottom falls out of our perfect world, and everything seems to come apart at the seams. In desperation we fall to our knees, either mentally or literally, and we pray.

So often a desperate prayer seems to be a last resort as we plead for strength and mercy when all of life seems to be falling apart—but do we stay there on our knees when circumstances do not change and life continues to crumble? Do we stay there when things do change and the sun once more begins to shine? Is prayer still the first place we turn when the sun is shining, when there is money in the bank, and when our children are good and obedient?

When it comes to parenting, most parents quickly realize that the most difficult and the most important aspect of parenting—whether it involves schedules, chores, discipline, or any other aspect of parenting—is consistency. Schedules are easier to keep if they do not change, chores and even lessons are easier to learn if parents are consistent in the way they teach and review, and rules are more apt to be kept if the consequences for breaking them are always the same—every time.

Relationships also require consistency if they are to thrive and flourish, and this is true of our relationship with God. Are we really consistent when it comes to prayer? We may pray at every meal and with our children before they go to bed, but do we consistently pray—or habitually pray? Is there a difference? Of course, earnest, pleading prayer may rightly be the cry of our hearts when our worlds are crumbling, and when all is well we may still pray for our children every day as a matter of habit, but are these the steady prayers that build our relationship with God?

I recently listened to a sermon on prayer by Tim Keller in which he quoted Eugene Peterson’s book on the Psalms, Answering God. Peterson said, “We have to realize what the Psalms are teaching us about prayer is that all true prayer pursued far enough results in praise.” Prayer pursued far enough. . . . That phrase seemed to etch itself into my spirit, and I have thought long and hard about it. I wonder how often I truly pursue prayer into praise. My heart testifies to the truth that when we praise our heavy hearts are lightened, our anxieties exchanged for peace, our priorities redirected, and our hearts expanded to make room for joy, contentment, and tranquility. Praise deepens our relationships with God and with others. Praise promotes change regardless of our circumstances.

Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray without ceasing.” I think Steven Curtis Chapman best describes the continual pursuit of prayer in his song “Let Us Pray” as he sings, “Everywhere and every way, every moment of the day, it is the right time.” I think “everywhere and every way” may be an accurate description of continual prayer. We need to—and should—pray those pleading cries for help when our world is broken. We need those repentant, tearful prayers for grace when we have stumbled; we need to speak those anxious prayers for direction when we are lost and uncertain; we need to spend time on our knees in intercessory prayer for our children, family, and friends—and the Lord is still honored when we remember Him before we eat and sleep.

As home school parents, we are the first and most influential examples our children have of a Christian walk, and although they may not often see us pray, our prayer lives flow out from our hearts in all directions like ripples on a pond. They are the waves that lengthen and broaden our lives when we are sinking, and they are the ripples that dance in all directions when we are skipping. So let us pray without ceasing, everywhere and every way; and in the midst of all these prayers, I hope we remember Peterson’s words and pursue our prayers into praise. Praise promotes peace, and all of us, especially busy home school moms who continually juggle the difficulties and pleasures of educating their children, need that peace that passes all understanding. A heart that continually communes with God in prayer, pursuing it to praise, will be like those stones that skip joyfully across the top, seeming to defy the fact that they are merely rocks.