Paul speaks about praying without ceasing or stopping? How is this possible in the life of the Christian? Let’s examine from the Bible what it means to pray without ceasing.
What is Prayer?
I know this sounds like a question that is obvious, but permit me to go a bit deeper on what the word prayer means. Prayer is not repeating a bunch of words using language that goes over certain words to make them sound grand. Prayer is really just talking to God. It is speaking with God, reverently of course, but it is simply pouring out your heart to God Who loves you. Just tell Him what you feel and what burdens you carry. He wants to hear your genuine, sincere, heartfelt concerns. As a father and grandfather, I want my children and grandchildren to communicate to me just what they are feeling and what weighs heavily on their minds. It’s about abandoning all pride, admitting our weaknesses, displaying our needs to Him verbally (if possible), and doing so with the full realization that He is there and He is listening. There is one problem; our prayers can be blocked or hindered when we have unconfessed sin or when we have something against someone and have refused to forgive them. We must first be able to clear our conscience of anything that we have done wrong and anyone that we have wronged.
If you are a child of God and have been born again (John 3:3) which means that at one point in your life you have repented and trusted in Christ, then you know He will hear your prayers and He will answer them. Sometimes the prayers are answered like this; “No, not yet, or I have something better for you” but He does answer them. Even Jesus, when He prayed three times in the Garden was told no in His desire to “have this cup pass from” Him because Jesus knew that the will of the Father supersedes what we want or think we need (Luke 22:39-46). Paul also prayed three times, pleading (or begging) Him to have this thorn in the flesh removed but God told him “my grace is sufficient” (2 Cor 12:7-10) because in Paul’s weaknesses, the strength of God could be revealed and when we are weak, we are really strong (2 Cor 12:10).
Praying at all Times
Ephesians 6:18-20 “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”
Paul commands the church at Ephesus to be “praying at all times” and to do this in the Spirit or in the power of the Holy Spirit for the “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom 8:26-27). Paul requested the prayers of the saints and especially for his boldness in what he “ought to speak” because he was called to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles, even thou he frequently did to the Jews as well.
Praying Without Ceasing
First Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
It is God’s will that we give thanks. It is God’s will that we give thanks no matter what our circumstances are. It is God’s will for us to rejoice in Christ. And it is also God’s will that we “pray without ceasing.” This doesn’t mean that we quit our jobs and ignore our family and friends so that we can pray continuously. What this means is that we are to pray as often as we can. We can pray during times where we are driving, when we are waiting for something, when we are in between jobs, when we are at lunch but it also clearly means that we should be praying first thing in the morning and just before bedtime. If a person prays before they begin their day and praying for God’ will to be done and that He is glorified in what we do, say, or think, we know God will hear and answer this prayer. Yes, we can pray for our own needs but we need to be on our face before God to pray for the church, the pastor, our friends who don’t know Christ, and for anyone that we might come into contact with that we would have the opportunity to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Prayer Changes Things, and You, Not God
Prayer never changes God but it does change us and it changes things. It teaches us to align our will with the Father’s for we must always pray for God’s will to be done (Rom 8:27; Col 1:9; Luke 22:39-46). We know the obvious will of God, like in Romans 12:1-3 you (and me) are commanded to “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” To have our minds renewed we need to be in prayer as often as possible, we need to transform our minds by staying in the Word of God daily, and by this we can test and “discern what is the will of God [and] what is good and acceptable and perfect” to the Father.
If you are not a child of God, He will not answer your prayers (John 9:31) but if you are a child of God, all we have to do is “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened [because]which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him” (Matt 7:7-11). God will hear and answer your prayers but sometimes we don’t get what we need or desire because we simply don’t ask or we don’t ask the right thing, which must be in accord with God’s will. James wrote that “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:2b-3). Pray big time prayers too that we know are God’s will because if your earthly father gave you things that you asked for, “how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him” (Matt 7:11b)!
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon