The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing, but how is that possible? How can someone be in prayer while working and studying? Does God really expect us to pray every moment, non-stop? Doesn’t such a strict interpretation set people up for a guilt trip, trying to do something that is impossible?
Struggling with the command to pray all the time
First Thessalonians 5:17 says,
“Pray without ceasing.”
Earnest Christians want to know what this verse means in order to please God. Legalists want to know how to fulfill their responsibility to God to gain His reward. Others want to excuse their lack of prayer with another meaning of the verse.
Surprisingly, men of God have struggled with the meaning of this verse, as though it is something that is not possible to do. The story is told of a 19th century Bible study group led by John Newton. They debated the meaning of this verse without a satisfactory answer.
During their meeting, a maid walked into the room. One of the ministers asked the girl, “Maybe you can tell us what it means to pray without ceasing.” She said, “Oh, sirs, that’s not a problem. When I get up in the morning, I clothe myself and pray that the Lord Jesus might clothe me with His righteousness today. When I came down here to clean the furniture, I prayed that He might cleanse me from the filth of my soul. When I served you food and drink, I prayed that Jesus Christ might be my meat and drink. So, Sirs, I just kind of pray my way through the day.”
Praying without ceasing is not difficult to understand after all. And it is not hard to do.
Praying without ceasing is possible
How can you spend all day and night in your prayer closet? How can you get any work done if you are constantly on your knees praying? How can you ever have enough to ask for in order to pray constantly? How can you organize your life to fulfill this command? This verse must mean something else.
First Thessalonians 5:17 means exactly what it says. Pray without ceasing.
If you have a relationship with God and you understand what prayer is, then you know that it is possible to pray without ceasing. You are already doing it.
Praying without ceasing is unavoidable when you have a good relationship with God.
Prayer is simply having a conversation with God. There is no formality or ritual to fulfill. There are no special words to recite or formulas to follow. Prayer is just talking to God. And like any conversation with a friend, you can talk about anything.
Prayer is more than asking for something
Prayer is more than asking God to do something for you. Prayer consists of communion, praise, and requests. There are many reasons to pray.
Prayer is for us. It is not for God. He does not need us to inform Him of anything, or to persuade Him of anything, or to remind Him of anything. He already knows our requests and His answers. He has known all that we will ask for before He created the world.
If God knows everything already, why do we pray? Prayer is good for us. It reminds us of what is important. It reminds us to be humble. We come to Him as needy souls dependent on His mercy and grace. We are reminded of how great He is and how thankful we should be.
In addition to requests, prayer involves communion and praise. Communion is friendship with God. Praise is gratefulness for God.
The prayer of communion
Communion with God begins with your salvation when you first believe in Him. The moment you change your mind about Him and accept His will as being the right way and best way for your life, He changes you. He forgives you of your sins and gives you His gift of eternal life. This is called salvation.
Communion as a child of God
When you are saved, you become a child of God. You are literally born into the family of God. This is a spiritual birth called new birth. Jesus explained to a Pharisee named Nicodemus in John 3:5-7,
“Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”
Believers are friends with God and children of God. This establishes a very important relationship with Him that will last forever. It is a family relationship that will never cease.
As a child of God and His friend, you have the opportunity to talk to Him at all times. In fact, because God is omnipresent, He is with you everywhere you go and at all times. You cannot escape the presence of God.
Communion as a friend of God
As a friend by your side, you can talk to Him all the time. And because He is your friend, you will talk to Him. This is what friends do.
As friends do, you will talk to Him about whatever you are thinking and doing. You will talk to him when you wake up, as you go through your day, and when you go to sleep. He is with you when you are working, playing, resting, eating. He is with you when you are serious and when you are sad or happy. In every moment of time in your life, God is with you observing you, guiding you, and in fellowship with you. This is the prayer of communion.
Your conversation with God begins when you are saved. It continues for eternity. It will never end, though it may be interrupted. And whether you are talking or thinking, resting or walking, working or playing, with other people or by yourself, God is right beside you being a friend. This is the prayer of communion. This is praying without ceasing.
The prayer of praise
In addition to making requests and communion with God, prayer is also about praising God. There is a lot to praise God for.
Praise is expressing admiration and approval. It includes expressing gratefulness and honor.
King David wrote the Psalms of prayers in the Bible. They are filled with prayers of praises to God. He writes,
“In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever.” (Psalm 44:8)
“Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious.” (Psalm 66:2)
“In God will I praise his word: in the LORD will I praise his word.” (Psalm 56:10)
“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever. I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it: and I will wait on thy name; for it is good before thy saints.” (Psalm 52:8-9)
“I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.” (Psalm 7:17)
“Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.” (Psalm 33:2)
“And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long.” (Psalm 35:28)
Pray without ceasing
Praying without ceasing will happen automatically when you have a good relationship with God. If you understand what prayer is and the three elements of prayer (communion, praise, and requests), then you understand why praying without ceasing is possible. It is unavoidable.
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