continual prayer

i've been studying spiritual disciplines with my staff this summer, and this past week we investigated what it means to "pray without ceasing." we read a passage from henri nouwen's book, clowning in rome, and i wanted to share part of it here:

Although it is important and even indispensable for our spiritual lives to set apart time for God and God alone, our prayer can only become unceasing communion when all our thoughts--beautiful or ugly, high or low, proud or shameful, sorrowful or joyful--can be thought in the presence of the One who dwells in us and surrounds us. By trying to do this, our unceasing thinking is converted into unceasing prayer, moving us from a self-centered monologue to a God-centered dialogue. To do this we want to try to convert our thoughts into conversation. The main question, therefore, is no so much what we think, but to whom we present our thoughts, because to pray unceasingly means to think and live in the presence of Love.

The idea of offering our thoughts to God and reorienting them as prayer really struck me. How offen do i fail to offer thanks for the joys in my day or not think to pray over the things that are worrying or frustrating me in the moment? the idea that Who we present our thoughts to is more important than what we think resonates with me still. it says in 2 corinthians 10:5 to "take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ," but i think that i believed unconsciously that i needed to clean up my judgmental, resentful, or otherwise sinful thoughts before i offered them to Christ. that is really just sin-management and trying to fix myself instead of accepting the grace of Jesus. after all, it is only the cross of Christ that has the power to defeat sin--my own lackluster efforts will always fall short. when i overemphasize the role of my strength or will to "fix" sin, i diminish my need for Christ, it's a short jump to practicing the kind of works-based salvation i know to be heresy.

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 thessalonians 5:16-18).

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