A common verse referenced in the Bible is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “pray without ceasing.” Those who know the verse may not only be aware of it, but may even be somewhat perplexed by its meaning. How is it possible to pray without ceasing? If we are honest, most of us would probably admit we are closer to ceasing to pray than we are to praying without ceasing.
LET ME ENCOURAGE YOU
Before speaking further about this particular verse, let me encourage prayer in general. There are hundreds of references to prayer in Scripture. Prayer is modeled, taught, encouraged, and practiced throughout the Bible, and there is no question prayer is important for our Intimacy with God. We need to pray even if…
We don’t know much about prayer.
We think we don’t pray well.
We haven’t prayed much lately.
We're unsure of what to pray.
There is no ambiguity or doubt about it. The Bible is very clear - we need to pray.
Now let’s address the “pray without ceasing” issue. This sounds like an impossible goal. We may see the need and desire to do so, but we just can’t begin to approach a life of continual prayer.
ONE POSSIBLE ANSWER
I believe it is perfectly possible to pray without ceasing if we have a different understanding of what that means based on human reality and the context in which the verse is found. First, I am not sure how to pray while sleeping. I have prayed myself to sleep, awoken with my first thought as a prayer, and even fallen asleep while praying (far too many times). I know God intends for us to sleep, and created us with the need for sleep. So, I must assume it is okay to cease praying while sleeping.
These words are written in a series of admonitions describing what a thoroughly Christian lifestyle should be. Just before saying we should pray without ceasing, Paul tells us to rejoice always. However, Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time to mourn. So, the life of a Christian has a posture of rejoicing in the goodness and faithfulness of God, even when we go through times of grief or mourning.
Apply the same thought to prayer. We may not be actively engaged in prayer every moment of every day, but the posture of our lives should be prayer. Prayer should always be our first response, first effort, and first thought to any and every situation. Our relationship with God and our communication with Him should be the focal point of our lives. We are told to pray instead of worry. We are told to "cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you" (1 Pet 5:7). Prayer should never cease to be the “go to” for every life situation, good or bad. This posture of prayer is far more significant than constantly repeating “Help me Jesus” or “Thanks You Jesus” in a continuing litany.
“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:16-18). A thoroughly Christian life understands and responds to life as coming from the Author of Life, and never ceases to refocus on Him as life unfolds.
by Jimmy Aycock