Pray without ceasing seems like an impossible command. Should we be in constant spoken prayer 24/7? Or is there more to this idea than first appears? Here are a few fresh perspectives and some practical steps to help you on your way.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
How Do We Do That?
This well known passage of Scripture from the Apostle Paul is also translated in many versions of the Bible as to “pray without ceasing”. It sounds like a tall order. Prayer continually? Really? Have you ever read that verse and felt guilty about not praying enough? Or wondered what it means to pray without ceasing?
I don’t know about you, but I often wonder about the idea that we should pray constantly. It can be difficult to keep up with prayer on all occasions, and it is easy to feel guilty for not praying.
How Long Should I Pray?
So, how about you? How many hours do you spend in prayer? I’m not sure how much time I spend in prayer. Perhaps there is a risk that when we read St Paul’s words to “pray without ceasing,” we fail to read the entire sentence. It says also that we are to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances.
Rather than being in constant pray, praying without ceasing depicts us as being in constant communication with God. Not only that, but we are also encouraged to rejoice and give thanks at all times. As a result, I consider adoration to be a form of prayer.
No Guilt Or Shame
Let’s not misunderstand what it is to pray without ceasing; it does not imply that we must pray constantly and feel guilty for every second we do not pray. Praying without ceasing entails developing a prayer lifestyle in which we don’t just get up in the morning and pray for 10 to 20 minutes, and then don’t pray again until the evening. Instead, prayer is our way of getting through the day as we go about our daily activities.
Many prayers will be what our forefathers called spontaneous prayers, in which little darts and phrases are sent up to God. “Lord, please help me,” is a favourite of mine.
In the nineteenth century, a group of men led by John Newton, who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace, met once a month for theological debates. Every month, they addressed one theological question. One of the questions they asked was, “what does it mean to pray without ceasing?” They debated it for about 45 minutes and came up with no satisfactory answer.
Finally, a maid walked into the room and began serving. “Perhaps you can tell us what it means to pray without ceasing,” one of the ministers casually said to this Scottish maid. She told them, “That’s no problem, sirs. When I wake up in the morning, I dress myself and pray to the Lord Jesus to clothe me with His righteousness for the day. I prayed to Him to cleanse me from the filth of my soul when I came down here before you men arrived and dusted the furniture. When I placed this food and drink in front of you, I prayed that Jesus Christ would be my meat and drink until the end of time. So, Sirs, I’m going to pray my way through the day.”
That, I believe, is what it means to pray without ceasing.
It’s likely that learning to pray without ceasing will take a lifetime. Here’s a rundown of some practical suggestions:
Concentrate On Each Activity
Before engaging in any activity, one method is to quietly ask God for guidance. Then perform the activity in a ‘recollected’ manner. The concept of recollection is derived from the ancient Christian monastic tradition and entails doing one activity at a time for God.
When we are aware of each moment, life becomes more full and we become more aware of God’s presence. An activity to try is to be intentionally aware of what we are doing during an activity; to really notice and offer what happens to God. Repetitive activities such as walking, traveling, gardening or cooking are excellent places to begin.
Get Rid Of The Timer
Jesus did not give us a specific time for our prayers. His approach was more focused on having a relationship with God the Father, which is what we are attempting to cultivate. When we judge ourselves harshly, if we don’t pray as we believe we should, it can be a barrier to learning to pray.
Let Us Learn To Listen To God
Listening to God is simple to say but difficult to practice. The still small voice of God speaks most profoundly to people in the Bible. If we seek God’s guidance, I believe He will teach us how to better hear His voice.
Taking Time To Be Still And Learning To Be Silent
We can incorporate silence into our days by simply turning off the television or radio for a few minutes. In the silence, we begin to learn more about ourselves and how to listen to God. If you’re not used to silence, even five minutes can make a significant difference. Allowing some silence in our days often has an impact on our prayer times because it allows us to listen more fully.
Remembering That You Are Not Alone
As we learn to pray with others, we can share our load and together present our requests to God. You can pray online and in a community by listening to some of our audio prayer times via the Glorify App.
Approaching Prayer Holistically
When we think about prayer in a broader sense, it becomes more fulfilling and natural. Yes, having a prayer time is beneficial, but it is also beneficial to have times during the day for rejoicing, prayer and thanksgiving too.