“Pray without ceasing.”
1 Thessalonians 5:17
This verse has always burdened me, as I do not know how to pray without ceasing. Sure, there are “popcorn prayers” – quick two or three second prayers you offer up while at red lights or in traffic or on elevators. “Lord, please help” or “Lord, I need you.” And those are great! Any prayer you offer up, no matter how short or befuddled it may be – is an offering of incense to God: “When He took the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (Revelation 5:8).
Even though I offered up popcorn prayers and, of course, had focused, quiet time with God daily in prayer for longer than my knees would like, I still was not sure I was living out this verse.
Then, this morning, it came to me that in the Old Testament times, there was the Temple. This was the physical, designated place to worship and pray to God. If you wanted to be close to God, you went to the Temple. This could mean several days’ trip for some, depending on where they lived in proximity to the Temple. In fact, there were so many people trekking to the Temple that there were entire songs written for their journeys (see Psalms 120–134). But the key in the Old Testament is that God had a designated physical place for worship and prayer.
The concept of the Holy Spirit indwelling in human beings was not yet pervasive. Note that David mentions it in Psalm 51:11, “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.” However, in this verse, we see the concern he has of losing the Spirit like Saul did – a passage I covered several months ago in my “Why did God let me down?” post.
With the Old Testament context in mind, we now return to 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” Praying without ceasing no longer seems so difficult to achieve because we do not have to journey to a physical place, He is always with us. The Holy Spirit indwelling in us has made us the Temple, so we can pray literally wherever we are, whenever we want, and there is no required physical place. Praying without ceasing also helps us to walk in the Spirit versus the flesh.
“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”
The more we are plugging into the Holy Spirit through prayer, the more likely we are to live in a way that pleases God. When we remember that we are the Temple, we have the Holy Spirit, that makes it much easier to “pray without ceasing.”
Pray whenever, pray wherever – there is no long trek to take. You are already there.
We lift up everyone who has come across this page for any reason and reads these words. If they already know Your Son, Jesus, may they feel the power of the Holy Spirit within them and pray without ceasing. If they do not yet know Jesus, then make today the day, Lord.
In the powerful name of Jesus we pray.
I use to think the same thing. Wonder how does one pray without ceasing. After years of reading and studying I believe I know what it means.
It means to talk to God through out my day. Like when I am cooking dinner, or cleaning or what ever I am doing at the moment I will say a prayer. Sometimes I say, Lord did you just see that? Singing songs. I try to find all kinds of ways to be talking to God. That is what I think it means. Not to say I am some scholar of some sort.
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Thank you for reading and taking the time to share your insights. Your reply reminds me of the timeless book “Practicing the Presence of God”. May you have a blessed day.
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