How Can I Pray Without Ceasing?
Written April 2019
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 (ESV)
Tucked away at the end of the book of 1 Thessalonians is a little verse that is a frustrating gem of Scripture that blesses, encourages, and confronts each Christian that reads it. Verse 17 says “pray without ceasing.” It is a command to not give up on praying for a concern, it is a command to cultivate a life of prayer, and it is a reminder that every facet of our life is supposed to be bathed in prayer.
This blesses us because it is a simple and straightforward teaching that anyone can understand. It is only three words afterall. There is not too much that can be misunderstood, twisted, or thought of as controversial. However, obeying these three little words is a downright frustrating task as it seems so difficult to have a life where everything is bathed in prayer. Even though it is so easy to pray and requires no special preparation it is something that each and every Christian struggles with at one time or another.
So how do we develop within us a life that prays without ceasing? How can we, each night, when we lay our heads down to sleep, confidently say I have prayed without ceasing. To be honest I do not think there is an easy and quick answer to that question, but I do believe there are steps we can take in or life to develop a life which is bathed in prayer each day.
Allow me to give you a couple of thing we can do each day to develop a life that prays without ceasing.
1) Keep an up-to-date prayer list
I am so thankful for the prayer list we have in our bulletin and all the work that goes into keeping it up to date. It is one of the best tools we have to remind us to pray. When we have that list and update it weekly it reminds us of the needs in our area and if we write down new things throughout the week we are reminded of the new needs that have popped up during the week. This keeps our minds focused on those things we need to lift up to the Lord which in turn moves us to pray with purpose throughout the day.
2) Use your waiting for the Lord.
We wait a lot in our life. At the grocery store, in the doctor’s office, in line at DMV. We spend a huge amount of our time waiting for nearly everything we do. Think about how much time we could spend in prayer if we did it while we waited. Rather than being bored or using the time we wait to get angry at the line in front of us, why don’t we use the time we have to pray for those requests which are near and dear to our hearts.
3) Let your senses remind you to pray.
Every sense that you have can remind you to pray if we would allow them to. Our eyes can remind us of all the many lost in this world that need a relationship with Christ and the many needs that exist in our communities. Our eyes can also remind us of all the things we can thank God for and give Him praise. Our ears can remind us of the blessings of God as we hear the leaves rustle in the wind or the voices of our friends and family that God has blessed us with. Our ears could also remind us of the needs of this world. I know each time my wife hears a siren it is a reminder to her to pray for those that might be injured and those that are rushing to their aid. When we smell the flowers or great food we can be reminded of the great blessings God has given to us in our lives. Even taste can be used to spark us to prayer as we are able to rejoice in the fact that God invented something as beautiful as taste for us to enjoy.
4) Drive and pray
For many of us a huge chunk of our time is spent on the road driving from location to location. If you find yourself alone in the car use that time to pray and carry on a conversation with the Lord. You don’t need to be kneeling or have your eyes closed, just begin praying and use the time you have on your commute to communicate with the Savior.
5) Use your eyes as a conduit for prayer
A great way to cultivate a life that prays without ceasing is to change the way we look at the world around us. Look around right now and you will see something to be thankful for, a need to lift up to Christ, or a difficulty you need to lift to the Lord in prayer. All around us are reasons to thank God and needs to be lifted up to God. Walking along the beach the other week I was surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation and the precious family God has given me. I had reasons to thank the Lord. All about us were people with their individual needs. Now granted I didn’t know them, but God does and I could pray for their salvation and that God would touch their lives. All I had to do was be willing to see what was around me. Perhaps next time you are out on a walk you can pray “Lord, help me see the things I can praise you for and all the thing I can pray for that are around me today.”
6) Forget flowery language
Growing up in an independent fundamental baptist church, I have heard my fair share of flowery language when it comes to prayers. Whether it was a deacon or a visiting pastor I grew up hearing all the “Thee’s” “Thou’s” “Thine’s” and all other manner of fancy prayer words. Now I’m not downing these words, I know I have used them in praying. There is nothing wrong with that. I want to make sure I say that up front. What can happen though is we begin to think that is the only way we can talk to God, which is not true. We can talk to God as we would anyone else. In fact I suspect that is really what God desires from us as His children. I know that as a dad I want my daughter to come and share her heart with me, not in flowery language. but with heartfelt words. When you pray don’t worry about saying the right thing the right way, rather talk to God honestly with real words said from the heart.
7) State the obvious
Usually, when we or someone else states the obvious we get ridiculed for it or get someone mad. If we forget our umbrella and it pours down rain
and we get soaked the last thing we want to hear is someone say “you’re wet.” This is not the case with God. We need to state the obvious things we know about God to praise Him for Who He is but also to remind ourselves of His character and His actions towards us. There is nothing we can say that God does not already know. It is completely fine to pray and state the most obvious thing to God in praise of Him. We need to praise Him for His goodness towards us and His grace that helps us each day. When you pray state the obvious blessing He has given you today from the good night’s rest you had and the sun that is shining. In this we praise God and remind ourselves of God’s awesomeness.
8) Begin everything with prayer.
Every Tuesday when Allison is at school teaching I help her set her room up and prepare for the day ahead and one of the things that is part of our routine is we stop and I pray for her. I praise the Lord for the opportunity Allison has to teach and all the students and I ask for His guidance and strength throughout the day. We do that each Tuesday morning as a start to the day ahead. That is a habit that we try and incorporate in everything we do. I’ve also found that everything seems to go much better when you start with prayer. In our life we start many things everyday. What if we began each activity or job with prayer, thanking God for the opportunity and asking for His help as we do the task before us. How much more would we pray if we just began things in prayer?
9) Sing your prayers
You know if you look through our hymnal it will probably surprise you to know the sheer number of hymns that could very easily be used as prayers. How Great Thou Art, for example
O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder Thy power throughout the universe displayed
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee How great Thou art, how great Thou art Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee How great Thou art, how great Thou art
How about I Need Thee Every Hour,
I need thee every hour Most gracious Lord No tender voice like thine Can peace afford I need thee oh I need thee Every hour I need thee Oh bless me now my savior I come to thee
When we tune our heart to the words of these hymns and make them our souls cry they are prayers to our Lord and many times they convey the message of our hearts just as clearly as the most elaborate prayer. Singing to the Lord also offers us one of the easiest and most convenient ways to worship and develop our prayer life. So if you don’t have your car radio tuned to a Christian radio station go ahead and change one of your presets that you can incorporate this power and wonderful way of praising the Lord.
10) Converse with God in your errors
I make mistakes just like you make mistakes but what a wonderful opportunity to offer prayer to God. When we mess up we need to take the time to come before God, as we rightly should, and ask for forgiveness. If we do this we create a great habit of praying but also a great attribute in our own lives that we will quickly make right what we have done wrong.
11) Let God occupy your thoughts
Throughout the day our mind is occupied by thousands of thoughts. What should we eat for lunch, that’s a nice flower arrangement, that was a funny joke, and countless others. What an awesome way to converse with God by asking Him and allowing Him to occupy your thoughts. An easy way to do this is to pray, “Lord help me to allow you to occupy my thoughts today.” Then throughout the day continually think, “What would God think of this situation?” What would God have me to do here?” “God how would you like me to react to those words that were just said to me?” In this way God is brought into your mind and, through prayer, a conversation is constantly going on about your day and the choices that you make.
12) Listen instead of speaking
Let be honest, sometimes we just need to be silent. Amidst all the craziest of this life we need to spend time in prayer listening to God. How do we do this? One way is to start by saying “God, I know I have prayed many times to you but I really want to hear from You so I am simply going to listen for You and the Holy Spirit speak to me, help me to hear You and be ready to respond to Your calling.” Then we listen. It might be that God brings to your mind a blessing He has given that will comfort your heart or it could be He lays the need of another that He wants you to minister to. It is through listening that we are able to gain comfort and direction.
Above are twelve different things to help you become a Christian who prays without ceasing. Now are all these meant to be tackled all at once? Of course not! My hope is that you might give one or two of these a try and bring forth a little more prayer into your life. If you do that, then it will be a little easier to incorporate a little more and a little more prayer into your life.
One thing I wanted to make sure I said was this. There is no wrong way to incorporate more prayer time into your life and there is also no wrong or bad prayer. God is a God of infinite knowledge, wisdom and intelligence. Even the most ornate and well thought out prayers will fall short of the magnificence of our heavenly Father.
Many times people will tell me that they don’t know how to pray or what to pray or what words to use and I came across a great illustration that explains prayer very well. When we are infants and babies we do not know how to speak or tell exactly what is wrong. What we do know how to do is cry. When a baby needs changing, or is hungry, or is in pain they cry. Amazingly the parents react and know just what the child needs. It might take them a couple of tries to figure it out but the soon find the cause and help the situation.
That’s prayer in a nutshell. Us, as God’s children, the very best we know how to, cry out to our heavenly Father with our limited language skills. We cry out in pain, in sorrow, in joy, in need and our heavenly Father, in His infinite wisdom and love, hears us and knows exactly what we are saying and what we need. Don’t worry about whether your words are proper or flowery enough, pray with your heart, use the words that you know, pour out yourself to God like a child does to a father and you will be well on your way to having a life that prays without ceasing.