HOW DO WE “PRAY WITHOUT CEASING?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) is a short, simple instruction. Yet, as with the majority of other Bible teachings, it has been complicated because of “natural-man” thinking. How is it possible to “pray without ceasing?”
For a great number of people, it is not considered “prayer” unless we are kneeling, or closing eyes, or raising hands, or bowing, or entering a prayer closet, or going to a church building, or reciting audible words, or speaking in some “unknown tongue” (gibberish!). Again, this is because we—for centuries—have blindly followed denominational systems (religious tradition) instead of standing entirely on the pure Holy Bible (King James Bible in English!). Therefore, when we encounter a passage such as “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), we have great difficulty understanding just what God the Holy Spirit teaches us here. Our questions, highlighting our ignorance, are overwhelming. How can we always kneel? Does God expect us to permanently close our eyes? How could we forever be in a prayer closet? When are we supposed to go about eating, sleeping, working? See, as the verse indicates, prayer extends beyond physical posture—and that is what religion has failed to tell all of us.
“Pray without ceasing” has absolutely nothing to do with keeping our eyes closed forever, staying on our knees incessantly, always lifting our hands, or any of that other aforementioned formalistic and legalistic nonsense. While often manifested outwardly, prayer, at its most basic level, is actually internal—and here is where it should not stop. At this point, we need a good definition of “prayer:” it is speaking to God in light of His Word to us. “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah” (Psalm 62:8). Whenever we find people praying in the Bible, they are “pour[ing] out [their] heart before him,” speaking to God concerning His will for them. Having received God’s revelation to them, they quote it back to Him, reminding themselves (or reinforcing in their minds) what He has told them.
According to the Bible, we are more than physical beings. The inner man, our soul and spirit, is invisible—but just as real as our skin, bones, and blood. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). On the inside, we commune with ourselves, remembering the past events in our lives, recalling our goals or wishes, recollecting the names and faces of people we know, and so on. Here, we connect with our innermost feelings and thoughts. Likewise, we do not have to speak to God in an audible voice to pray. In His omniscient, “all-knowledge,” He can read our thoughts! Psalm 139:2: “Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.” When we merely think about Bible verses, we are really praying, for we are conversing with the Lord who lives within us by the indwelling Holy Spirit!
Everything we do should depend on what we know from the rightly divided Scripture. Obviously, unless we are actually familiar with the Holy Bible, we have no chance of knowing anything about God’s will for us. Friend, listening to someone read the Bible for you, reading someone’s comments about the Scriptures, and having a shallow grasp of the Bible, may be helpful to some degree but they are absolutely not substitutes for personal Bible study and personal faith. Friend, you must read the Scriptures on your own, humbly allowing the Holy Spirit to teach you, willing to relinquish any and all preconceived notions and denominational biases. “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:13). As we pay attention to reading the Holy Bible, encouraging each other in it, and upholding sound Bible doctrine; we are doing exactly what the Lord left us here to do.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16). “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:14-21).
Better acquainting ourselves with the principles of grace (Romans through Philemon), we begin to spiritually mature and master God’s will for our life: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).
Here is a simple illustration. Suppose a Christian man desires to know how God expects him to treat his wife and children. Religion would have him cry out for enlightenment—begging for answers, looking for “signs,” attending marriage and parenting seminars, and so on. Instead, he should read (!) 1 Corinthians chapter 7, Ephesians chapters 5 and 6, and Colossians chapter 3. We do not ask God for information because He has already put it in His Book. Are we grateful and interested enough to actually look inside it to see what He wrote on the subject 2,000 years ago? That man is to take that doctrine he reads in his Bible and believe and consider it. By thinking about it, he mulls what he has read and he prevents himself from being ignorant (uninformed) of the topic. What would God have him do in his situation? He just read it! Now, he needs to, by faith, apply those verses to his life! He is already on his way to praying without ceasing, continually going over in his mind those verses he has believed in his heart. The cycle continues, whether about marriage and parenting, or any other aspect of life (work, finances, friendships, local churches, goals, and so on).
If we could broaden our answer now. How do we “pray without ceasing?” Well, as we appreciate our circumstances, we recall the pertinent Bible verses we read. The Holy Spirit brings them to our mind, we believe them in our heart, and we apply them in our life. What would God want me to do here? I do not have to wonder or guess. This verse already told me how to think about the issue, how God Himself views the matter. Let me apply that verse here. Here is how I am to conduct myself as a Christian in this situation. We tell the Lord (prayer!!! prayer!!! prayer!!!), “Father, You want me to believe this, You want me to do that.” Then, we believe and do what the Holy Bible told us. This should be our habit as Christians during every waking moment—whoever we are, wherever we are. The Word of Christ should dwell in us so richly, so thoroughly, it becomes as natural to us to conduct ourselves in that manner as it is normal for a lost person to live without the Word of Christ.
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