Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)
Some call it “pressure of speech.”
My family calls it “verbal diarrhea.” An inelegant but accurate description. When time is short and words are many, communication can get messy.
The TV comedy Last Man Standing pokes fun at this affliction at the expense of one of its principals. Mandy Baxter, amateur clothing designer and devout fashion groupie, is beside herself with anticipation at the arrival of celebrity style guru Kim Kardashian.
Mandy has waited all day for an audience with her idol. She makes certain she is first in line. After all, there are things she has to say, one designer to another. Things Ms. Kardashian needs to hear. And she only has a few privileged moments to share them.
By the time Kim arrives, Mandy can no longer control her excitement. The result is the verbal equivalent of a newborn baby diaper blow-out— unbelievable, uncontrollable mess.
Poor Mandy gets carried away by her own hysteria . . . and event security. The scene ends with Mandy declaring her love and devotion even as she is dragged from the room.
But I can only laugh with Mandy, not at her. I’ve had a few blow-outs of my own.
It’s the moment I’ve been hoping for—an audience with someone I admire. I have much to say and very little time to say it. Better make it good.
But sometimes the pressure to speak is just too much. My heart cramps, my brain spasms, I can’t hold back any longer and then . . . blech. Right at the feet of my favorite. I leave feeling sheepish and sick to my stomach. What I wouldn’t give for a chance to go back and clean up the mess.
For a words girl, there is nothing worse than sounding like a babbling idiot.
That’s my problem with unceasing prayer. As much as I want constant communication with God, I can’t stomach the thought of coming across like a “fool with many words.”
Still, I believe in the power of prayer. And I’ve spent weeks years fretting about many things. Perhaps unceasing prayer could be the antidote for chronic anxiety. So when a specific worry came to mind recently, I recognized my moment—a prime opportunity to turn a problem into a prayer request.
I stopped in my tracks, turned my focus heavenward, and blurted the first words I could think of. Afterwards, I felt . . . foolish. What was I thinking, taking up God’s time with something so trivial? Surely there were much more important subjects for us to cover. Back of the line, Pam . . . you blew it.
The problem though, was not with timing or delivery, but perception. I was treating God like a celebrity . . . and myself like a groupie with a onetime backstage pass. I felt pressured to get it right.
But prayer—particularly the “unceasing kind”—is meant to be a blessing, not a burden. Charles Spurgeon explains that the very words “without ceasing” convey privilege. “There is no time when we may not pray.” Children of the king have unlimited access to the king. Spurgeon contrasts such contact to the days when only a lucky few were permitted audience with the ruling monarch.
Like many celebrities today, kings only held court on certain appointed days. No one could approach the king unless he sent for them. And failure to produce the right credentials was punishable by death. Anyone attempting to pull a “Mandy Baxter” at the throne of King Xerxes would have been carried away alright . . . in a body bag.
Spurgeon explains, “Among the Persians there were some few of the nobility who had the peculiar and special right of an audience with the king at any time they chose. Now, that which was the peculiar right of a very few and of the very great is the privilege of every child of God. He may come in unto the King at all times.”
Spurgeon concludes with these thoughts: “’Pray without ceasing,’” is, if I read it aright, a most sweet and precious permit to the believer to pour out his heart at all times before the Lord.”
We can say anything—anytime, anywhere, any way. No pressure. Just prayer.
Brothers and sisters, because of the blood of Jesus we can now confidently go into the holy place. Hebrews 19:20 (GW)
So let us come boldly to the very throne of God and stay there to receive his mercy and to find grace to help us in our times of need. Hebrews 4:16 (TLB)
RECOMMENDED RESOURCE: Pray Without Ceasing, a sermon by C.H. Spurgeon