16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
During my junior year of high school, I started to discern God calling me to vocational ministry. I had an outstanding youth minister at the time (who remains a mentor of mine to this day) who helped me navigate the process and begin to understand what God’s will for my life might be. Once I was certain that ministry was my personal calling in life, I began to dream about how amazing my life as a minister would be. How could serving God in a church, with days full of prayer, study, and pastoral care, not be like a permanent “church camp high” that I had come to love so much. Looking back now, I realize that some of my “dream” has become a reality. I love the holy work of ministry and have a hard time imagining doing it anywhere besides the beloved community we have at Bayshore. But, ministry (like any vocation) is not all sunshine and rainbows. There is very real struggle and pain in trying to lead the people of God where the Spirit is revealed to be moving. It’s easy to be become burned out when things seem to be going the wrong way and God’s presence is difficult to feel and experience.
I have learned in my time in ministry that the key to avoiding burn out and staying connected to God is following the exhortation of today’s scripture to “pray without ceasing.” That advice sounds really solid, but how can it be practical in a world that demands our constant attention and work. One method of maintaining a consistent attitude of prayer is a practice often called “breath prayer.” This involves choosing one meaningful phrase (that can basically be prayed in one breath) that calls our attention back to God and invites Him to do the work only He can. For me, the phrase “Come Holy Spirit” has become a regular breath prayer. It helps to remind me of the constant need for God’s transforming presence in my life and in the lives of others. I also find that this breath prayer awakens me to how God is already at work all around me and is inviting me to join Him in building the Kingdom here on earth. Consider what your own breath prayer could be and how you can “pray without ceasing” this week.