The crowds bustle around Jesus. Children are laughing, running between their parents’ legs as the adults try to get close to the strange, marvelous rabbi from Galilee. Dogs have to get up and scamper out of the way as the throng moves down the street, a slow-moving stampede. People are shouting, screaming, calling out.
In the midst of this, a poor woman, nearly doubled over, somehow manages to push—or perhaps crawl—her way through, sneaking up behind Jesus and touching the hem of his garment. Suddenly it’s as if she’s put her hand into an electric field and touched the source of power. Faith holds the current and transforms it into healing life. Instantly, she’s made whole. Just as instantly, Jesus is aware that someone has drawn power away from him. He stops, turns, and says so.
When the woman touched Jesus, he was praying. Maybe not in spoken words and probably not even consciously. But he was praying, nonetheless. Jesus was always praying. His life was a prayer. And we, his followers, are told to pray always as well.
What does that mean and how is it possible? To “pray always” is an expression that means,“Pray a lot, every day, as often as you can, continually.” But the way Jesus modeled it, it can almost be done literally—all the time—as we learn to constantly abide in the presence of God the Father, where all the healing power of life and love is. We can always be praying, whether we are aware of it or not.
We cultivate this life of “always-prayer” by practicing prayer until we find that we never leave the conversation, even after we’ve left our knees or moved out of our prayer closet (or our bedroom, office, or car) and into the day. We intentionally create space for the dedicated practice of prayer. We make room for encounter in the spaces of our everyday life, even if it’s just short moments that bring us back into a deeper awareness of God. There we learn to listen for and hear the voice that calls us beloved, awakening us to our adoption and to the heart of God, again and again and again. And we learn to stayin the conversation, because the conversation is not something we’ve created, nor is it something that leaves us. It’s this life of awareness, through prayer, that makes us become present for others, a people who can presence the Reign of God as Jesus did.
In our discipleship process, we constantly ask, “Jesus, what are you speaking to me?” This is a practice in prayer through which we anticipate hearing because he’s already speaking. If we just incline our hearts in faith to listen, then we trust we will hear and that we will learn all the ways that we can always hear, always remaining in prayer. We will find that, indeed, we are “always praying.”
For all of these readings in one place, order my book 'Learning to Live and Love Like Jesus.'
I Thessalonians 5:17.