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
Those of us who grew up distinctly Christian can understand this idea from Paul’s first letter to the church of Thessaloniki, but practically, it doesn’t much make sense. How are we to pray without ceasing? I mean, what about conversation? What about actually doing work? It’s hard to understand how to actually live like this.
Through my studies of Jewish culture over the past six months or so, I came across this idea of “pray without ceasing.” Jewish life is saturated with tiny prayers called berakhah or brakha, which means blessing (Spangler and Tverberg, 92). Each of these prayers bless God, in the sense that they thank God for things we generally take for granted. The root word barakh also means to kneel. Each of these tiny prayers give thanks to God and humble us in each reminder of God’s incredible provision.
- A Jewish person’s first prayer happens first thing upon awakening in the morning with a prayer like this:
- I am grateful before You, living and eternal King, for returning my soul to me with compassion. You are faithful beyond measure.
- As they open their eyes, they might pray:
- Blessed is He who gives sight to the blind.
- As they dress themselves, they might say:
- Blessed is He who clothes the naked.
- As they smell food, they might pray:
- Blessed is He who has given a pleasant smell to food.
- As they sit to eat the food, they might say:
- Blessed is He who brings forth food from the ground.
- As they hear of tragic news or something that brings grief, they might pray:
- Blessed is He who is the true judge. (This prayer reminds them that God is the sovereign judge, and He is still good, no matter how hard life gets; He will ultimately bring perfect justice within the world.)
As I read of these tiny blessings of the faithful Jews, I finally understood what Paul was teaching in these words to the Thessalonian church. And I felt the challenge rise within me to give it a try. What would my day be like, searching for any possible way to praise God in every moment of my day?
Today, I have tried it. It is only noon of a rainy, morose kind-of day. And it has been a God-filled day. In the six hours of my waking time, I have never seen or felt God so consistently, I have never felt so joy-filled for no reason at all. It has been life-changing. I know it has only been half-a-day, but it has been so different that I felt like I had to share my findings.
God is no closer to me today than He was yesterday: but to be sure, I am closer to Him. Speaking His goodness in everything from the breath which fills my lungs in the morning, to the sight of my eyes, to the clothes He has provided, to the rain which nourishes the earth, to the school which teaches my children, to the food which nourishes my body, to the COFFEE which wakes me up so sweetly, I have seen God in every moment, and His provision in every detail reminds me of His outrageous goodness and faithfulness. Worry has no space, because God’s goodness takes up every part of my brain.
I now turn to challenge you to see how many times you can bless God today. Look for the most minute detail and praise Him for it. Speak His goodness in every single moment. Make up your own blessings! “Blessed is He who gives knowledge. Blessed is He who brings friendship. Blessed is He who provides community. Blessed is He who gives work to idle hands. Blessed is He who……”
If you take up this challenge, I would LOVE to read of your experience in the comments!
p.s. the book which I am currently reading, which taught me much of these blessings, is Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg. I HIGHLY recommend it!!