Monday, April 27, 2015

Praying Without Ceasing

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, we are told that we should "pray without ceasing."  But what does that mean?  How can we possibly expect to pray non-stop throughout the day if we are also supposed to do our work and be present among other people?

If you've never read Brother Lawrence's classic work "Practicing the Presence of God," I highly recommend you take some time to read it.  This book, more than any other, teaches on the subject and gives some good guidance for normal people.

However, the book about Brother Lawrence book is medieval, and lacks a larger biblical context.

Pastor John Piper offers some good thoughts on how we can pray without ceasing. And rather than re-create the wheel, let me just post what he says here.  It is worth the read.

What does it mean to pray without ceasing?

I think it means three things. First, 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.

Second - and I think this is what Paul has in mind most immediately - praying without ceasing means praying repeatedly and often. I base this on the use of the word "without ceasing" (adialeiptos) in Romans 1:9, where Paul says, "For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you." Now we can be sure that Paul did not mention the Romans every minute of his prayers. He prayed about many other things. But he mentioned them over and over and often. So "without ceasing" doesn't mean that verbally or mentally we have to be speaking prayers every minute of the day. But we should pray over and over and often. Our default mental state should be: "O God . . ."

Third, I think praying without ceasing means not giving up on prayer. Don't ever come to a point in your life where you cease to pray at all. Don't abandon the God of hope and say, "There's no use praying." Go on praying. Don't cease.

So the key to delight in the Word of God is to pray continually - that is, to lean on God all the time. Never give up looking to him for help, and come to him repeatedly during the day and often. Make the default mental state a Godward longing.


I think it would be good to notice here that in real life some discipline in regular prayer times helps keep this kind of spontaneity alive. In other words, if you want to have a vital hour-by-hour spontaneous walk with God you must also have a disciplined regular meeting with God. Daniel had some remarkable communion with God when it was critically needed. But look what it grew out of. The decree was passed that no one could pray except to the king, under penalty of death. But notice what Daniel does, according to Daniel 6:10. "Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously." The point here is that Daniel lived a life that combined discipline (three times a day) with spontaneous encounters with God. So it will be with us: if we hope to pray without ceasing day and night - enjoying a continual coming and communion with God - we will need to develop disciplined times of prayer. Nobody maintains pure spontaneity in this fallen world. (See Psalm 119:62; 55:17.)

For the rest of Dr. Piper's sermon on this text, go to this link.

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