BY JORDAN MAYER
"Pray without ceasing..."
(1 Thessalonians 5:17)
In 1 Thessalonians, Paul closes out his first letter to the church with some final instructions. Among a litany of other charges, he writes three short, but impactful words: “pray without ceasing”.
This is not the first time Paul has used these words. Elsewhere in the New Testament, Paul opens his letter to the Colossians by saying that he and Timothy, “…have not ceased to pray for you...” (Colossians 1:9). How is it that Paul could be so bold as to claim this? And it begs a few questions for how we could possibly pray without ceasing in our own lives.
Should we be mindlessly repeating a few scripted prayers? Should we lock ourselves inside our homes and isolate ourselves from the outside world in order to fully devote ourselves to prayer? Is Paul's charge out of touch with the demands of our fast-paced, modern world?
It doesn’t take long to realize that this definition of “ceaseless prayer” is neither practical or possible, nor is it the message Paul is trying to get across.
For me, I have found it helpful to first remind myself of what prayer truly is: a conversation with God. Prayer is not mere religious utterings, it is the intimate and direct communication with the God of the universe! So, ceaseless prayer is the kind of conversation that is never quite finished. It's about adopting not only the action of prayer, but an attitude of prayer.
Ceaseless prayer is the opposite of occasional prayer or inconsistent prayer. It's about taking God through your day. As we awake in the morning, our first conversation is to thank God for the night’s rest and the gift of a new day. We thank Him for who He is and what He has done. Before the day’s to-do’s begin to pile up, we pray over the day's needs and seek His wisdom, guidance, and strength. When the unexpected trials pop up in the middle of our day, we take them to the Lord in prayer. When we return home and settle in for the night, we recount the day's blessing.
Hour by hour, minute by minute, we keep lifting up our prayers to our Heavenly Father. Thanking Him for His blessings, confessing our sins, seeking His will, asking for His deliverance.
This is a habit I’ve been trying to build in my own life. How easy it is to begin my day in prayer, and then fail to offer up another word to the one who sustains my very life. I get into the office and am quickly overcome by the hustle and bustle of the day's activities. Before I know it, the day is over and I've missed precious moments with my Lord. There is a time and a place for dedicated and extended sessions of prayer, but we are also invited to infuse moments of prayer into every day life. God wants to hear from us, not because we are telling Him anything that He does not already know, but because it demonstrates our willingness to come to Him in faith and trust, in relationship.
Begin the day in prayer. Go through your day in prayer. End your day in prayer. Each day and every day.
In the beautiful hymn, In the Garden, C. Austin Miles speaks of this intimate relationship he shares with His Lord and Savior as he walks in his garden in the cool of the morning.
"And he walks with me
And He talks with me,
And He tells me I am his own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known."
(In the Garden by C. Austin Miles)