pray

How Can Someone Pray Without Ceasing?

Photo by  Joshua Earle  on  Unsplash

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Have you ever read something in the Bible and wondered how it would be possible? Perhaps there’s a lot of things you’ve wondered about in the Bible but I’m thinking of admonitions that seem impossible to do.

When someone asks if I take the Bible literally, I try to clarify what they mean by literal. The Bible is full of figurative language—language that has a meaning beyond its literal meaning or dictionary-based definition.

Even some things Jesus said to do weren’t intended to be taken literally—like gouging out an eye when looking at a woman (or man) lustfully or cutting off your right hand if it causes you to sin (Matthew 5:29–30). If we took this literally, then we’d know the truly honest believers because they’d only have one eye and one hand!

Pray without ceasing

When I first read the phrase “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17) and thought about what it meant, I realized this wasn’t to be taken literally. Or is it to be taken literally?

This phase is one of several admonitions at the end of the first epistle to the Thessalonian church—

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thess 5:16–22)

How does someone pray without ceasing? I mean, if it were taken ultra-literally it would mean never eating or sleeping or doing anything else. Ok—it should be obvious that the apostle Paul didn’t intend that. But what is meant by this phrase?

The idea of praying “without ceasing” is to pray in a continual way. This means we are to pray throughout the course of daily life regardless of circumstance and in all situations.

When you think about it—it’s very liberating.

The idea of praying “without ceasing” is to pray in a continual way

Prayer free from form

Our prayer doesn’t need to follow some form or take place with a certain posture. It can be a few words spoken silently or a continuing conversation with God while driving. Come to think of it—there’d probably be a lot less road rage if believers prayed more while driving in traffic and speeding along on a crowded freeway.

I believe there’s a place for more formalized prayer and I prefer to kneel or bow when praying on my own. But I’ve said prayers while talking with people in various situations—asking for wisdom, discernment, clarity, or for peace in a heated discussion or tense situation.

I pray while reading the Bible and have often thrown up a quick prayer while teaching and preaching or while counseling someone.

Sometimes I pray without words—I know God knows my heart but I can’t formulate my thoughts into a specific prayer or don’t know how or what to pray regarding some decision or how to respond to a situation I’m facing.

Learning to pray

I remember an instance early on in my search for the Lord that helped me understand the nature of prayer. I was driving a station wagon full of people along a highway on the northern coast of California. It was the height of the hippie era and I was spiritually lost but searching.

My girlfriend at the time was sitting next to me when a rear tire blew apart. I called out loud to God as I struggled to gain control of the car as it swerved across lanes and I tried to pull off the highway. Once stopped, my girlfriend turned to me and said, “He heard you and answered your prayer!”

It was a simple testimony of God’s grace and protection for both of us. I called out and He heard me. He answered. It wasn’t a formal prayer and I wasn’t a committed follower of Jesus. But God made it clear that He was near and attentive.

I’ve learned to pray without ceasing in various ways. I’m sure I’ll learn more as I continue to follow Jesus and become more intimate in my relationship with Him. I know He’s ever-present and attentive but am I trusting Him in all things through each day?

Faith is a journey of trust and prayer. Unceasing and continuing prayer is how we stay connected to the Lord along the way.

Faith is a journey of trust and prayer

What about you?

Have you learned to “pray without ceasing?”


This post was originally posted on Faith Hacking through Medium

Here are 3 more of my posts on Faith Hacking and Medium—

A Reliable Source

Rhetoric, Relationships, and Racism

The Practicality of Being Spirit-Filled

Ready to Engage

Photo by–Jordan McQueen_Unsplash
Photo by–Jordan McQueen_Unsplash

Faithfulness is a virtue. That's what I was taught when I was young. But as I grew older, I wondered why I didn't see much of it. Now I wonder if it's considered a virtue worth valuing.

Faithfulness is valuable, more than ever. Its value is seen in two important ways—our character and in relationships. In a world where we may wonder if integrity counts for anything, those who are faithful, those who can be counted on, are especially valuable.

And then there are relationships. Faithfulness in relationships may seem naive, but oh how valuable it is. Anyone who has been wounded by unfaithfulness or violated trust knows this.

The world is looking for people who are faithful in life and relationships. This should be commonplace for people of the Christian faith—for God is always faithful.

Keep alert for opportunities

Last week, we looked at the value of getting personal and connecting with people and their life stories. I've posted about this before, but it bears repeating. It's easy to discount the value of our life story, but over the years I've been enriched hearing the stories of other people.

There's always more to people than first impressions and appearances. When we're able to connect our own life story and that of others to God's story of redemption, a wonderful depth and dimension is added.

This week, I want to wrap this series up by looking at how to be alert for opportunities to engage people, and be ready to share your faith.

Look for opportunities in everyday life

The routine of every day life can lull us into a dull stupor, if we're not careful. If you find yourself sleep-walking through life, it's time to stop and look around at life passing you by. When you do, you'll start seeing the people you cross paths with in a different light. But this requires an additional step.

This additional step needs to be intentional. It's a step requiring us to look beyond ourself. There's a place for introspection, a small place in life. When we look inside for too long, we lose perspective and all we begin to see is our self. Jesus calls us to deny our self (Luke (9:23), not study our self. Once we get our eyes off our self, we'll be able to see people in our life.

As mentioned last week, we need to be open to getting personal with people. Not nosy and getting in their business, but interested in them. This means asking questions about them and showing genuine interest in them and their life story. This usually opens up opportunities to share our own life story, or better, God's story.

Get more familiar with various stories in the Bible

Bible stories aren't just for children in Sunday School. When I tell people about biblical storying, the first reaction is often dismissing it as too simple and childlike. Funny, I remember Jesus saying we need to become like children to be included in God's kingdom (Matt 18:1-5).

But stories are loved by everyone—everyone. I shared last week about my experience overseas and in a village church in Ethiopia. My first awareness of the power of telling stories came while teaching children, and especially overseas. And then there's Jesus who often taught with stories called parables to convey the truth of God's kingdom.

How do you become more familiar with the stories of the Bible? Again, we need to be intentional. You can start by reading and listening through the Bible. I recommend using various Bible versions so you can hear it in other words than whatever version you normally use.

There are several resources for learning stories in the Bible, and for learning how to tell biblical stories well. Here's one online site where you will find several resources—International Orality Network (ION)

Photo by– Nicolai Bernsten_Unsplash
Photo by– Nicolai Bernsten_Unsplash

Pray and trust God for opportunities

One simple way to be alert for opportunities to engage people with stories is to pray. It's amazing how simplistic this may sound, and yet how effective it is. In our DIY era, we sometimes overlook the simplest, most essential things. Prayer is one of those simple essentials in the kingdom of God.

Start each day with a simple prayer for God to open doors with people. Once you pray, trust God to do so. Then be alert to the people He puts in your path. They may not be the people you expect. When you're aware of the people in your day's path, look for opportunities to engage them in conversation.

If you're not sure about this, refer back to last week's post—Getting Personal. Once you engage people in conversation, silently pray for God's guidance when He opens the door for you to share your life story of faith and God's story.

Follow up with people

You need to follow-up with the people with whom you share your faith. This should be obvious, but just in case it's not, it is important. This is not a one-and-done effort, we need to see it through beyond casual encounters. People talk about wanting genuine community today. Community requires long-term commitment. There are no short cuts.

The kingdom of God on earth is seen in the early church (Acts 2:42-47) as they learned how to live out their new life as believers. Sharing about their faith was natural for them. When my wife and I were new believers, no one needed to prompt us to share our faith with others. It came out of us naturally. Our life changed and we told others about it.

Not everyone we engage in conversation is ready to hear our story or God's story of redemption. It may require us to continue talking with them on various occasions, to build relationship and trust with them. Your genuine interest in people will do more to open doors than clever things to say.

So, pray, trust God, step out and engage people and build relationship with them. When opportunities come up, step through the open door. Be a good friend. And be a faithful friend, first to Jesus, then to others.

Give it a try. Even when things don't go as you want or expect, remember—the example of your life speaks loudest of all.

This is the final (for now) post on how to be an evangelist without really trying. I may do a follow-up post on how to learn and tell a biblical story to fit with your own life story or the life story of others.

If you'd like to know more about learning and telling biblical stories, let me know by sending me an email through my contact page.

Thanks for reading and feel free to share this post with others!