Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
My gut reaction when I read this scripture is, “What? Pray without ceasing? How am I supposed to do that? Am I supposed to pray every second of every day?”
Because let’s face it, life is busy. We’ve got meetings to attend, kids pretending to be monkeys climbing all over us, yards that are beginning to resemble rainforests, school projects to complete, and a million other things going on. How in the world are we supposed to do all these things and also pray without ceasing?
Compartmentalized Prayer Lives
I tend to compartmentalize my prayer life. It’s the thing I do in the morning while I read my Bible and when I really need God’s help with something. But that’s not praying without ceasing. How am I supposed to pray without ceasing while in the middle of a Bible study? That could look kind of weird if you ask me.
“Stephen, what do you think about this?”
“Huh? Oh sorry, I was just praying without ceasing. Could you start over and I’ll try to pray and listen at the same time. It’s tough to pray without ceasing.”
Children Pray Without Ceasing
Recently I read some helpful words regarding this scripture. The great theologian Charles Hodge said:
I think that in my childhood I came nearer to conforming to the apostle’s injunction: “Pray without ceasing,” than in any other period of my life. As far back as I can remember, I had the habit of thanking God for everything I received, and asking him for everything I wanted. If I lost a book, or any of my play things, I prayed that I might find it. I prayed walking along the streets, in school and out of school, whether playing or studying. I did not do this in obedience to any prescribed rule. It seemed natural. I thought of God as an everywhere present Being, full of kindness and love, who would not be offended if children talked to Him. I knew he cared for sparrows. I was as cheerful and happy as the birds and acted as they did.
I love the childlike dependence on God expressed in this quote. When he lost one of his playthings, he prayed. When he received something, he thanked God. He simply knew that God would not be offended if his children talked to him.
To pray without ceasing is to be in a state of prayer. Whenever the slightest need arises, I bring it God. These don’t have to be big, world-changing things. I can pray for strength, wisdom, refreshment, patience, and anything else I might need during my day.
John Piper puts it this way:
…it means that there is a spirit of dependence that should permeate all we do. This is the very spirit and essence of prayer. So, even when we are not speaking consciously to God, there is a deep, abiding dependence on him that is woven into the heart of faith. In that sense, we “pray” or have the spirit of prayer continuously.
I want to be more like that. When I sit down to enjoy a cup of coffee, I want to give thanks.
When I lose something, I want to ask for help to find it.
When I feel like my kids are driving me crazy, I want to plead with God for patience.
I want prayer to be woven in and out of my life and sprinkled throughout my day.
God is my Father. He won’t be offended when I ask him for things and he will be delighted when I thank him for things.