Desert Wisdom: Unceasing Prayer (2)

I was all set to move ahead with Bunge’s material when a reading from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey (January 14) caught my attention.  He added a piece of insight which I want to pass on to you.

We know that our brains never cease to “think.”  Sometimes that thinking is in the form of focused reflection upon a particular idea.  But it can also occur through such things as day-dreaming and dreaming while sleeping.  Neurological activity never ceases.

So, Paul was not off the mark to speak about “unceasing prayer.”  But Nouwen asked, “How do we move from unceasing thought to unceasing prayer?”  His answer–by referring our thoughts to God.

We will not do this perfectly or all the time.  We move in and out of conscious connection with our thoughts.  But because we are constantly thinking, we have the potential to be constantly praying.

We can capture a thought and ask, “God what do You think about this?”—or—“God, is there anything about this that You’d like to expand upon?”—or—“God, is there some reason You want me to pay attention to this?”

You get the idea.  I think this may be what Paul had in mind in 2 Cor. 10:5 when he exhorted us to “take every thought captive…”

We can only do this when we think/pray at a pace which does not prompt us to “move on.”  Prayer is more closely related to settling in than it is to moving on.  It is creating the time and space to be attentive to the thoughts which come to us—attentive in ways that allow us to refer them to God for greater insight.

In previous posts, I have commended the practice of “praying your life.”  This is another illustration of it.  Life is coming to us all the time.  Our brains are thinking all the time.  By paying attention to life and “taking every thought captive” we can allow the Spirit to convert our thinking into praying.  And in this sense, we never are without something to pray about.




About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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1 Response to Desert Wisdom: Unceasing Prayer (2)

  1. Ric Schopke says:

    I’m using Bread for the Journey for daily reading this year. The January 18-22 writings
    on solitude are good.

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