“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”——1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
When people talk about prayer, it is often in the context of setting aside certain times to pray. Some describe prayer along side their morning “devotionals”. Others, praying at meals or before going to bed. But all through Scripture, prayer is described as a lifestyle of believers of lifting up praises, requests, thanksgiving, and seeking God throughout each day.
So what should we make of the concept of praying without ceasing??
When we first hear the challenge of praying without ceasing, our first response tends to be making excuses about having other responsibilities. There are jobs, taking care of households, activities, and so many other things that need our work and attention. But instead of trying to understand what is really meant by being in continual prayer, many dismiss this concept without any further consideration.
Prayer is something we have to practice at doing. We tend to criticize ourselves and our words to such an extent that it intimidates us to actually pray. But just as we converse with other people, and sometimes stumble over our thoughts and words, it is no different with our prayers to the Lord. Prayer takes practice. The more we pray and really focus on the things we are praying for, rather than trying to be so articulate, the easier prayer becomes.
In praying corporately, we must not let what others may be thinking about our prayers interfere with truly pouring our hearts out to God. Praying out loud in groups is scary for most people, but joining together with others, united in prayer, is important for us all. I know that I am greatly blessed by joining with others in prayer. Not only do I get to learn how others pray, but it also challenges and encourages me as I walk together with others also seeking the Lord.
Another area in learning to pray continually is for those that are not believers. When we recognize that each of us comes to faith only through God drawing people to Himself (John 6:44), it should cause us to always be praying for those we know that don’t believe in Jesus. Praying along with non-believers can also have a big impact in not only showing care and concern for them, but by giving us an opportunity to publicly acknowledge Jesus as Lord. Praying with non-believers can be seen as a practical way of sharing our faith through action. It is a good to ask non-believers about the things we can be praying for and then actually pray with them right there.
As we learn and grow to pray more, individually and corporately, it will help us become much more aware of praying for all sorts of people and things throughout our days. When we are thinking of our families, friends, co-workers, and others we encounter, we should pray for them at that time. When faced with difficult decisions, we must find ourselves quickly going to God in prayer. In seeing God’s creation, the changing of seasons, or how much we are each blessed, we should turn those thoughts into praise to God.
No matter the tasks at hand, the more we become conscious of the things going on all around us, the more we will be driven to praying about all sorts of things. Prayer often isn’t a natural response for most people, including some professing believers, but the more we begin to think about and actually begin to pray throughout each day, the more natural prayer will become in our lives.
Praying without ceasing is something I have also called having an attitude of prayer. This doesn’t mean that each second of the day we must sit alone in a quiet room, neglecting other responsibilities, but rather always in prayer about the things going on in the world, in the lives of those around us, and so many other things we encounter as we go on throughout our lives. When we have an attitude of prayer, it humbles us and helps us to realize that “in everything give thanks”; knowing that God is in control and that He deserves our praise no matter what circumstances we might face or our current understanding of the situations we might be in.
There are also other times when we need to find ourselves in deeper prayer, spending greater portions of time praying individually and corporately. But we don’t need to think that prayer always has to be so formal. If we have an attitude of prayer, we will be growing in praising God, praying for those that don’t know the Lord, for others that may have sickness, lost jobs, broken relationships, for wisdom and guidance, and many other things. This may mean that there may be more intentional times for deeper prayer for certain things, but these times will be just another time of prayer as we go about our lives.
Praying without ceasing isn’t something we should quickly dismiss, but a reality that each of us is in need to learn to grow in. We cannot get so busy that we only set aside a few minutes in our busy routines to lift up our prayers, but learning more and more as we go through each day, to be in prayer about each of the things that God brings to our minds.
There are so many things we need to be in prayer about these days. Let us commit to learning to pray without ceasing, both in individual and corporate times, as well as in formal and spontaneous times as we go throughout each of our days.