Prayer is an amazing topic because it is unique to each of us and has dozens of applications and variables. How to pray without ceasing is a concept I’ve mulled over many times, especially when life is frustrating and stressful. Paul gives us these instructions.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
What Does Praying Without Ceasing Mean?
Let’s first talk about the meaning of the word “ceasing”.
Cease means: to bring or come to an end.
Therefore without ceasing would mean: do not come to an end or do not stop.
So, from a very literal angle, praying without ceasing means to never stop praying. However, that could not really be what Paul is saying here because then we would never talk to anyone else.
What then does praying without ceasing mean for the average everyday application? Charles Spurgeon has a wonderful commentary on the subject and because he says it so much better than I could, I’m going to provide you several quotes.
We Always Have the Right to Pray
“Our Lord Jesus Christ in these words assures you that you may pray without ceasing. There is no time when we may not pray.
You have here permission given to come to the mercy-seat when you will, for the veil of the Most Holy place is rent in twain from the top to the bottom, and our access to the mercy-seat is undisputed and indisputable. Kings hold their levees upon certain appointed days, and then their courtiers are admitted; but the King of Kings holds a constant levee.”
Isn’t it wonderful that we always have access to our God, creator of the world, lover of our soul? We never have to be afraid. Actually, Paul tells us to come boldly to the throne of grace. (Hebrews 4:16) Anytime, day or night.
Never Abandon Prayer
“Never for any cause or reason cease to pray. Imagine not that you must pray until you are saved, and may then leave off. For those whose sins are pardoned prayer is quite as needful as for those mourning under a sense of sin. “Pray without ceasing,” for in order that you may persevere in grace you must persevere in prayer.
Should you become experienced in grace and enriched with much spiritual knowledge, you must not dream of restraining prayer because of your gifts and graces. “Pray without ceasing,” or else your flower will fade and your spiritual fruit will never ripen. Continue in prayer until the-last moment of your life.”
Jesus sets a good example for us here. He was perfect, no need to repent of a sin. He was full of the power of God, no need to request help, and yet we see many times throughout scripture that he goes away alone to pray.
“and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” (Luke 5:15-16)
“And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray.” (Mark 6:46)
“Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” (Luke 6:12)
Never Stop Your Regular Prayer Time
“Pray without ceasing;” that is, never give up the morning prayer, nor the evening prayer, nor the prayer at midday if such has grown to be your habit. If you change hours and times, as you may, yet keep up the practice of regularly recurring retirement, meditation, and prayer. You may be said to continue in prayer if your habitual devotions be maintained.”
Learning how to pray without ceasing includes praying regularly, however your schedule allows. I am a morning person, I read early in the morning while the house is quiet and often before the sun is up. This works for me. I have friends who are night owls and couldn’t possibly be awake and ready for prayer before their children are up therefore their prayer time is at night. Whatever works for you, just create a habit of prayer.
Learn more about how to pray consistently here.
May Your Heart Always Talk to God
“While your hands are busy with the world, let your hearts still talk with God; not in twenty sentences at a time, for such an interval might be inconsistent with your calling, but in broken sentences and interjections.”
This made me laugh only because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been completely frustrated with my kids and cried out “Lord!”. It was both a cry for help and one of utter exasperation.
Be In the Spirit of Prayer
“Our heart, renewed by the Holy Ghost, must be like the magnetized needle, which always has an inclination towards the pole. It does not always point to that pole, you can turn it aside if you will; in an iron ship it exhibits serious deflections, under all circumstances it is not exactly true; but if you put your finger to that needle and force it round to the east, you have only to take away the pressure, and immediately it returns to its beloved pole again.
So let your heart be magnetized with prayer, so that if the finger of duty turns it away from the immediate act of prayer, there may still be the longing desire for prayer in your soul, and the moment you can do so, your heart reverts to its beloved work.”
May there be a longing in your soul to connect with God in prayer. Isn’t that a beautiful thought?
Rejoice Always and in Everything Give Thanks
One last point. Notice that “pray without ceasing” is sandwiched between “rejoice always” and “in everything give thanks”. Paul did this on purpose.
Prayer helps us to rejoice. Through prayer we gain confidence that God is with us, that He hears us, and that He is working all things for our good.
Having prayed and left all things in God’s hands, we can give thanks. We can give thanks in the good and bad because we have made our petitions known and we believe He hears. Whether we are praying for a job or strength or a wayward loved one, we can rejoice because God hears us and we can give thanks because we’ve left it in His capable hands.
Summing Up How to Pray Without Ceasing
Let’s sum up Charles Spurgeon’s wise insight. What does it mean to pray without ceasing?
- Have the confidence that anytime day and night we can come before God.
- Never abandon prayer.
- Keep a regular prayer time.
- Allow your heart to talk to God throughout the day.
- Always be in the spirit of prayer.
- Rejoice always.
- In everything give thanks.
What do you think of when you hear “how to pray without ceasing”? How do you apply this verse to your life? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.