“…pray without ceasing…” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Pray without ceasing? What on earth is this supposed to look like? Are we supposed to be on our knees 24/7? Are we to go around talking to God all the time such that people will always wonder if we are talking to ourselves like someone talking to a Bluetooth headset out in public? How are we supposed to give our full attention to other things that demand it if we are praying constantly? Clearly, I’m not as faithful a follower of Jesus as I should be. Have you ever thought like this before?
In order to get this right, we need to understand what prayer is. Prayer, at its core, is a conversation between us and God. Because God is God, folks tend to make this conversation very formal. Yet, while there are times to address God formally even as there are times when you address a monarch formally, if we are part of His family, His beloved children, then we are not limited to that.
Because we are God’s beloved children, we can talk to Him as if He were our father, which He is. We can be honest with Him about what’s going on in our hearts and minds and lives more broadly. The psalmists certainly did. Out of this we can have a running conversation with God that doesn’t ever end.
Far from needing to be vocalizing something all the time, though, this conversation can be mostly an internal one. Especially when we’re around other people. Even more, though, we need to remember what a conversation is. It is an exchange of ideas and words between two or more people. When one person talks the whole time we call that a lecture. If we are going to be in a conversation with God, this means we talk some, yes, but it also means we need to spend just as much time listening.
And why wouldn’t we? If God is really God, then wouldn’t we want to hear what He has to say far more than dominating the conversation ourselves?
Sure, but what does this look like? I can’t stay focused on listening to what feels like nothing for very long before my mind starts roving all over the place. Perhaps you’re there with me. Well, learning to listen to God is a discipline. We get better at it the more we practice it. There are different types of prayer that can help with this. Several of these involve meditating on a particular passage of Scripture. In this way we aren’t focusing on what feels like nothing, but instead are giving attention to words God has already spoken so that we might hear what He has to say.
Ultimately, praying without ceasing means that we are constantly sensitive to and aware of what God is doing in and through and around us. We are involving Him in the decisions we make throughout the day no matter how small they might seem to us. It means we are using Him as the lens through which we see and interact with the world around us. Imagine how much better our lives would be if we truly did this without ceasing. And, because prayer taps us into the power of God, we will be unleashing that power into the lives of the people around us and the situations we are in which will always serve to make things better than they were before.
Praying without ceasing is not easy and can feel awkward in the beginning. But, as we practice it over time, we will gradually grow in this discipline and find ourselves more and more tapped into what God is doing in His world. We will find ourselves part of the unleashing of His power into His world. We will find ourselves playing an active part in what God is doing in His world. This is our goal. Let’s get praying.