Energizer Bunny PrayingI remember, quite fondly, several times when I got to hear Billy Kim preach. He was Billy Graham’s interpreter in Korean crusades, and he pastored the largest Baptist church in the world, at the time. I heard him on his tours as acting president (2000-2005) of the Baptist World Alliance.
On one occasion, he said that his church ran (these numbers are not accurate, but close, and reflect the reality of his words) 15,000 on Sunday mornings. On the other hand, his Presbyterian pastor friend, there in Seoul, Korea, ran over 25,000 on Sunday mornings.
“How is it,” Billy asked his friend, “that you run over 25,000, when we are only running 15,000?”
His friend replied with a question. “How much time do you spend in prayer each day?”
Billy said he counted it up. “I wake up with prayer—10 minutes. I pray with my wife over breakfast—5 minutes. I go to the early prayers service at my church—1 hour. I pray during my private quiet time—30 minutes. I pray with staff and parishioners throughout the day—30 minutes. I pray over lunch and dinner—15 minutes. I pray before I go to sleep—10 minutes. . . . I pray for over two-and-a-half hours each day!”
His friend replied, “Well, that explains it. I pray for SEVEN hours each day!”
The audience I was with oohed and aahed. Honestly, I thought in my heart . . . “You guys need to get a life!”
Think about it! Who has TIME to pray that much? I can’t imagine any church people who are going to be able to pray for hours each day, nor would they necessarily APPRECIATE pastors with their head bowed that long each day. In fact, I think the average American church member would react like I did: “My pastor needs to get some REAL work done!” Of course, other reactions to a pastor’s many-hours-of-prayer schedule might include envy (from the overly-spiritual), guilt (from spiritual strugglers), or skepticism (from those jaded by poor experiences with pastors).
But wait! Doesn’t scripture teach us to “pray without ceasing”? If that’s the case, Billy and friend are actually coming up SHORT. If we pray all day, every day, isn’t that at least about 16 waking hours? Is this verse some exaggerated hyperbole that isn’t meant to be taken seriously?
Let’s look at a little more context. The surrounding words include additional never-ending commands:
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV
Prayer must mean more than reciting scripted words—though it can be that. Prayer must mean more than bowing one’s head and silently joining in with someone else’s words to the Lord—although it often includes that. Prayer must mean more than privately talking to the Lord about your needs, confessing your sins, honoring Him with your praise and thanksgiving—although it normally includes those elements. Prayer is even more than just sitting in silence and trying to listen to what the Lord may be telling you in the moment or from the scripture you just meditated upon—although He wants you do that.
Prayer, apparently, is a lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle that means you acknowledge the relationship you have with God isn’t here and there throughout your week or day. It’s EVERY moment of EVERY day. He’s always there and wants to walk in that kind of intimate—always, without ceasing, in all circumstances—relationship with you.
To make that happen, we have to start with a disciplined prayer life. If we don’t have a spiritual practice of prayer, we’re not likely to practice prayer as a lifestyle. I’m not there, yet. What about you? Is your prayer discipline a simple moment, or is it leading you into a lifestyle?