As we seek renewal during this Season of Epiphany, we become aware and attentive to the need for a life that works and is fully functional. Maybe, a change in attitude, a new diet, perhaps more sleep, something, anything to help us leap tall buildings in a single bound.
And often we are led trying to figure out what works in the spiritual world and how to make a change, to start anew, to develop a practice, anything that puts us on a path to spiritual success. Such a self-centered desire for spiritual renewal is tough going.
Spiritual renewal requires God. Rather than beat our heads against the wall or throwing the proverbial towel in and calling it quits, take a moment and call on God to join you in seeking renewal. Spiritual growth is not wrapped-up in a DIY technique or a “how to” ladder that can be climbed but it is about God doing a work in us, so that we are capable of doing the work of God. It begins with grace and is followed by unceasing prayer.
Grace is God’s gift. It is amazing. As Dallas Willard often would say, we find in grace the ability to do what we normally are unable to do on our own. Grace gives us strength. Grace gives us just enough help but not too much help. In other words, God’s grace is sufficient. It is all we need to get started and keep going in renewing our spiritual life.
Grace encourages us to pray. Prayer is a two-way street. It is a form of communication and dialogue. Ready for this? “Pray without ceasing.” (I Thessalonians 5:17). Paul was first to write about prayer in this way and he actually prayed without ceasing. For years, almost for my entire life, I thought isn’t Paul amazing—he can pray without ceasing. He seemed to me like giant spiritual guru that I could never be, or he was like some star athlete on the cover of a Wheaties box encouraging me to “be like Paul,” or be something I had no way of becoming.
But prayer is important to me. Even though I have my fits and starts and ups and downs, I know prayer is a priority in the spiritual life. What helped me move into a place of unceasing prayer was to first ask God for help which came in the form of grace. And secondly, I learned prayer is not all on my shoulders. When I pray to God, petition God, give thanks, or confess, the prayer is not one-and-done. Just because I prayed doesn’t mean the prayer is over.
Remember prayer is a dialogue. It is a two-way form of communication. God hears our prayers. How God responds is obviously different for each situation and experience. There is a uniqueness to prayer and not simply a formula. God’s answer comes in God’s time, meaning we may not know what God has in mind for days, months or years. But this is what makes prayer unceasing, never-ending, and eternal. Almighty God is working with us through prayer. Unceasing prayer brings renewal as we discern ever so gradually, our communication is two-way and as a result prayer is no longer an activity but a state of being. Prayer is unceasing.