“… pray without ceasing…” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV) What does Paul mean when he says, “pray without ceasing?” Surely, he doesn’t mean non-stop prayer should be shadowing over our every move, every relationship, every meeting, or every encounter… or does he?
When you look at Paul’s exhortations to the Thessalonians, you see a common thread: You and I are called to develop a spirit of humble dependence that permeates everything we say and do. The key is dependence. When we turn from what’s immediate and look to the Divine, we communicate our trust and faith that God is sovereign and has ultimate authority over everything and everyone we encounter.
Paul isn’t talking about non-stop prayers every second, every minute of every day. Instead, he is encouraging you and me to pray repeatedly and often. In Romans 1:9, Paul uses the same phrase “without ceasing” when he talks about making mention of the people of Rome in his prayers. In other words, Paul doesn’t toss out a one-time-done-deal prayer and move on to something else. No, every time they enter his thoughts, Paul turns and mentions them before the Creator and Sustainer of Life. Paul prays repeatedly and often. It’s one-way Paul “takes every thought captive,” an attitude that becomes aligned with God’s heart.
Finally, you and I are encouraged to not give up. In Daniel 6:10, Daniel, embraced the spiritual discipline of praying repeatedly and often. He set up a life pattern of kneeling “down on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before God, as was his custom since early days.” Daniel could “rejoice always, pray without ceasing,” as he gave “thanks in everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), even when being set up and persecuted against for his faith. When our lives embrace a practice of ascending prayer, every happening provides an opportunity for us to intimately commune with our Father.
How do we “pray without ceasing”? Like Daniel, we start with a heart of gratitude. Next, authenticity matters; toss out the rote prayers and be real before God. Also, begin to interject prayer into your activities of daily living: When I was a nurse, I’d pray for my patients before I ever entered their rooms, based on my review of their chart and the doctor notes. Later, as a teacher, I’d greet every student as they entered my classroom. They had no idea God and I were conversing with each hug.
Unexpected wait times can be transposed into opportunities to draw God into your moments. The lyrics to music can become prayers lifted to the Father’s ears.
Like Daniel, when we establish a daily pattern of prayer, we are setting a default button that will lead to more spontaneous conversations with the Lover of our Soul throughout the entire day.
Scripture references from NIV unless otherwise noted.
Based on Our All-Knowing God Knows What He is Doing on May 11th, 2019 - Watch Sermon