How to Pray: Everything Gives Rise to Prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17)
One of my first friends in college was a girl named Keely. She was kind, had a contagious smile, and loved the outdoors almost as much as she loved Jesus. By Christmas break of our freshman year we had become fast friends, and I had already learned a handful of important life lessons from her. She taught me how to bake a pecan pie (a Southern necessity), the value of a morning run, and most importantly, she taught me the phrase: “Everything gives rise to prayer.”
Without warning – in virtually any situation – Keely would lower her head and eyes, observe a brief moment of silence, and then resume her task. She took these pauses in the middle of conversations or on walks across campus. After several months of observing this quirk, I asked her about it. She let the moment linger, then, like Yoda dispensing sage advice to young Luke Skywalker, she said, “I’m praying. Everything gives rise to prayer.”
Her answer taught me a simple yet profound practice of prayer that I still rely on today.
In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul wraps up his letter to the church in Thessalonica with a list of direct and powerful imperatives. Verse 17 holds a command that bewildered me before knowing Keely, and still challenges me after. Paul wrote, “Never stop praying” (NLT). Other translations render it “Pray without ceasing” (ESV), “Pray continually” (NIV), or my personal favorite, “Pray all the time” (MSG). No matter how you say it, it’s an important admonition. Paul includes similar instructions in Philippians 4: “Do not worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.”
Paul wants the churches he started (and us) to be clear on one thing: prayer is vital and we should never stop doing it.
I love the idea of praying all the time. It sounds awesome, and I was always on board intellectually. But truth be told, I never knew how to actually execute it. Thankfully, Keely did.
Her phrase, “Everything gives rise to prayer,” was the mental prompt she used to help her pray without ceasing, and it worked.
When she heard a siren in traffic, she would lower her head and lift up a prayer for whoever was sick or injured in that ambulance. When she stumbled upon a wildflower during a hike in the woods, she would worship the creator who designed it. When she overheard a stressed-out fellow student fretting over an exam, she would pray for their success in the classroom. When our conversation turned to laughter she would thank God for joy. She talked with God about everything because everything gave rise to prayer.
This is the essence of 1 Thessalonians 5:17. It is an effective and simple tool for praying powerfully in today’s fast paced world, and it’s transformed my prayer life. It can transform yours too.
Look around. What do you see that raises your heart to pray? Pray about it, right now.
Want to pray this way? Here are two ways to start.
- Let your eyes and ears guide your prayers. As your day progresses, be keenly aware of what is going on around you, and when you spot a need, pray. When you spot something glorious, give thanks.
- Go on a prayer walk in your neighborhood (if you’re a runner, make it a prayer run!). As you walk or run around your neighborhood, pray for what you see, and make it a habit to do so once a week. I guarantee you will notice neighbors, businesses, beauty and other things you’ve never noticed (or prayed for) before.