D.L. Moody ministered during the latter half of the 1800s, a time when crossing the Atlantic ocean could only be done by ship. During one of his voyages a fire broke out aboard the ship. The crew immediately formed a line to pass buckets of water, and some volunteers also joined the line. A friend said to Moody, “Mr. Moody, let us go to the other end of the ship and pray.” But Moody answered, “Not so, sir. We will stand right here and pass buckets and pray hard all the time we are doing so.”
I used to think that me praying ideally could only be done while I was for the most part motionless. To me, Jesus sitting in stillness on a mountainside late at night was the best example of how to do real praying. After all, He did tell us to go into a room, shut the door behind us, and pray to God the Father in the secret place, didn’t He (Matthew 6:6)? Over the years, though, I’ve learned that ideal praying doesn’t necessarily have to involve inactivity.
Sometimes the busyness of life forces us to multitask. I myself do some of my best praying when I’m driving somewhere that’s an hour or more away. During such times my “secret place” becomes the driver’s seat of my car. Likewise, I enjoy praying while I’m doing household chores such as making the bed, folding clothes, or emptying the dishwasher. Sometimes I even try to pray while I’m riding my lawnmower, but I’ll admit that I find the roar from the mower’s engine a bit too distracting. Multitasking does have its limits.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, the apostle Paul urges Christians to “pray without ceasing.” Since we have to sleep, Paul obviously didn’t mean for his words to be taken ultra literally. What he meant was that we should spend every waking moment in what might be described as a continual atmosphere of prayer. As the prominent pastor Ed Young Sr. describes it, “We are to pray constantly, faithfully, and over and over, until our prayers are so much a part of who we are that we remain on praying ground throughout the day.”
The reality is that there will be plenty of times when your circumstances will prevent you from retreating to your secret place, closing the door behind you, becoming inactive, and then praying. It’s during such times that you’ll need to know how to pray on the go. Shopping is a good example. There you are in the store, trying to decide whether or not to buy that item. You need to seek God’s will concerning the decision, but what can you do? I’ll tell you. Right there in the store you can go to God in prayer, asking Him, “Lord, do you want me to make this purchase or not?” I’m not talking about you dropping to your knees in the store aisle. I’m not even talking about you literally closing your eyes. I’m talking about you multitasking. You shop and pray at the same time, just like D.L. Moody passed a bucket and prayed at the same time.
Am I saying that you shouldn’t have times when you come to an “all stop” and do nothing but pray? No, I’m not. As a matter of fact, you should do whatever is necessary to make those times happen with great frequency. But between those times you should master the art of praying as you go (or, praying as you do, if you like that description better). If your life is like mine, you can find it difficult to get to a place of complete inactivity and complete silence. Thankfully, though, the Lord doesn’t require us to be in such a place in order for Him to hear our prayers. Remember, Christian, prayer is simply you talking with your heavenly Father, and if we earthly fathers know how to talk to our kids while they are on the move, so does God.