In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul tells them in chapter 5 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (NRSV). This command frequently is distilled into the simpler form “Pray without ceasing”.
My husband and I take this passage fairly literally, partially motivated by faithful adherence, but mostly out of parental compulsion. Witness current events in our household:
The weather authorities announce we’re under a winter weather advisory and school is let out early: “Lord, please help me find a way to get my church work done while also being a present and enthusiastic mom to three little children”. (I did manage to get my work done and mostly seemed to be successful with the family).
One of our afternoon activities came from our oldest. We’re all home and looking for something to do and she tells us about “fried Koolaid” that someone sells “at a fair in California! Can we make this today? Please?!”. Me: “Sure”!: “Lord, you have to be all over this one.”
We’re all in the kitchen because every one of the Demmler Three want to be in on the action. In quick succession, the prayers fly through my mind:
“Lord, this is wonderful! What a great bonding experience! They’re in the kitchen and we’re going to have fun and this will be one of those times they’ll remember!” (We did have fun, but I direct you to the following).
“Lord, give me the patience to let this be a time for teaching and bonding and not a time for fussing and frustration”. (Somehow, it’s both).
“Lord, there’s hot oil on the stove, the kids are pushing to all help, and you know I have a two-butt kitchen. Please don’t let this be the day any of them are reminded what hot oil does to skin.” (Miraculously, it’s not.).
The kids start fussing and pushing because they all want to “help”: “Lord, it looks like the patience needs to be extended beyond me and to them as well. Can you throw a little their way too?”
We all try the fried Koolaid and everyone seems ok. Of course, fried dough has the ability to put smiles on faces and make everything right with the world.
The advisory is revised and intensified. The kids go to school Thursday but Friday is a big question: “Lord, please let it snow enough that we can have fun but not so much that the power goes out. And, while you’re at it, could you hold back on the ice? That’s not so much fun.”
School is cancelled Friday in anticipation of the bad weather but it ends up raining all day. “Lord, thank you for this day we have to be together at home as a family. Again, help me accomplish my church work while still being present for my family.”
The kids are hungry for breakfast so I start working on some muffins. In the 15 minutes it takes to make the muffins, each lovely child of mine asks me no less than 20 times if they can have something to eat, can have a “woah-gurt” or “cheese circle” or anything else that comes to mind. “Lord, give me patience with my children. In absence of that, please help them understand they REALLY need to get out of my kitchen right now.” (They didn’t and there may have been some yelling and more whining, and the kids fussed as well).
The rain keeps falling. “Lord, give me some ideas of what to do with these children. I don’t want every last brain cell of theirs to liquefy from too much T.V., but at the moment it’s awfully tempting.” (Somehow we managed to have fun. The kids pulled out their craft supplies and before bed we have an “art auction” of their respective “collections”).
Finally, the snow starts falling. “Lord, let’s revisit that earlier prayer, can we? Remember: Enough to play in but not so much the power goes out. Got it?” (It was perfect snow with not much ice and plenty to play in).
Every meal I cook, not just during our snow days, but every day of our lives: “Lord, please let everyone in the family decide this is the day they like all foods and will eat well.” (Only happens 15% of the time. 70% of the time we make DO. The other 15% of the time there is much weeping and gnashing of teeth).
This morning that meal was a “Dutch Baby” oven pancake. I had seen the recipe on Facebook and wanted to try it. “Lord, here we go!”
The kids all come in to watch me take it out of the oven and put it on the table so they can watch it fall as it cools. “Kids, that pan is really hot. You can watch the Dutch baby cool, but don’t touch the pan.” (This one is a warning and a prayer. It fails. Bailey decides she wants some of the powdered sugar off the side of the pan. She spends the next 10 minutes running her fingertip under cool water and the rest of the day with a sore finger).
Now, I’ve lifted a thousand little prayers already without even beginning our outing to enjoy the beautiful snow. Today IS filled with thanksgivings for the beauty of God’s creation, a beautiful and temperate day, and prayers for no serious injuries while the kids are sledding.
“Praying without ceasing” has become my mantra and daily habit. It’s not that I think God will suspend the laws of nature or even the laws of human behavior, even though that is often the substance of my prayers. I lift these prayers because they remind me that I can do this. They remind me that I’m not alone, not even in my own mind. Especially not in my own mind. Praying without ceasing reminds me of the child of God I want to be and not the one I may be tempted to be. It reminds me of my better nature.
My prayers can’t stop tragedy or make the day perfect. They can’t keep my kids from arguing or me from fussing. They can’t make the world perfect. But they do make my day better. And they do make me better. And that’s more than enough. That is perfect.
Our "Fried Koolaid"
Our oldest loved this one because she said it looked like a piggy!
Enjoying the snow.
We live around the corner from the church and walked over to see it beautifully adorned with snow.
Our Dutch Baby! Perfect with coffee and hot cocoa.
Here are the recipes we used this weekend: