In the past, when I heard this verse, I thought, “Heh, yeah right. I have a hard enough time finding ten minutes at some point in the day to pray and read my Bible. How am I going to be able to pray without ceasing?!” It seemed to me that prayer without ceasing was for super Christians of some sort.
It occurred to me the other day that the Word tells us to pray without ceasing, not as some sort of black-belt Christian technique, but as a matter of survival in this world. The closer that I get to God, the more natural prayer becomes to me. When I narrowly avoid rear-ending someone in bumper-to-bumper traffic, the first words out of my mouth are “Thank you, Lord.” It didn’t used to be that way, and it’s still not always the case, but the neat thing about it is that it’s becoming more and more the way that I view and respond to the world – acknowledging God’s hand in it all.
It’s interesting to read some of the other translations of the Bible for these verses in first Thessalonians 5:
New Living Translation: “16 Always be joyful. 17 Keep on praying . 18 No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Good News Translation: “16 Be joyful always, 17 pray at all times , 18 be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus.”
New International Version: “16 Be Joyful always; 17 pray continually ; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Each phrases it a little differently, emphasizing another aspect of the truth of this word from God. The Greek word used in verse 17 is adialeiptos , which, according to Strong’s Bible Dictionary, can mean “uninterruptedly, without omission, without ceasing,” but also refers not so much to things not being interrupted, but instead to things that are constantly recurring.
So, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 applies to our daily lives, meaning not so much that we never utter the word, ‘Amen’, but that we are entering and leaving prayer many times throughout the day and that we talk to God on an on-going basis.
It is extremely important that we renew our concept of what it means to pray. Our religious roots sometimes keep God at a distance with litany and liturgy. Ritual prayer has its place, but we need to realize that God is always by our side, always ready to talk with us.
Ephesians 6:18 (NIV) says, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” That’s pretty clear. It doesn’t say, “Pray before you eat and on Sundays.” It says on ALL occasions.
When you study scripture, it’s important to look at the verse in context to make sure that you’re not misinterpreting the Word. In this case, the context reveals just how important on-going prayer is for us. The ‘And’ in Ephesians 6:18 refers to the previous verses:
On-going prayer is part of the Armor of God! It’s part of God’s plan for us so that we can resist the Devil and the trials of life that would bring us down. The last part of verse 18 that talks about being alert is helpful in understanding why God asks us to pray continually. The Greek word used for ‘alert’ is gregoreuo , which means watchfulness, vigilance, and expectancy. It is the opposite of laxity and indifference.
God wants us to talk to Him on a regular basis so that He can keep us sharp and alert to His will and to protect and guard our hearts .
Psalms 21:11 (NIV) says, “Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path.” We can press into God this way, no matter where we are. We can regularly and continually ask God to reveal His wonders to us.
Psalms 143:9,10 (NIV) says, “9 Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in you. 10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.”
Psalms 140:13 (NIV) says, “Surely the righteous will give thanks to Thy name; the upright will dwell in Thy presence.”
Dwelling in the presence of the Lord is about immersing ourselves in His goodness, His truth, and His teaching so that we can be equipped to deal with life. Without plugging into God on a regular, on-going basis, we’re going into battle without so much as a pair of socks.
2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV) says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Here again, when we look at this in context, the Word reveals more about how we can apply this to our lives. We can’t do what verse 5 says unless we are equipped to do so.
“3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” Here again, we’re talking about equipping ourselves with the Armor of God. As obvious as it sounds, I think we don’t realize that in order to put on the full Armor of God we have to go to God to get the armor. A soldier in an army is still a soldier if he doesn’t have his equipment, but that doesn’t mean that he’s an effective soldier. In fact, that soldier isn’t long for this world.
We have to take every opportunity we can to spend time with God to put on the Armor of God and develop the Fruits of the Spirit in our lives. Knowing that God is always with you, on your way to work, when you’re working, when you’re playing, in hard times and in easy times, spend time with God:
- Thanking Him.
- Worshipping Him.
- Asking for help.
- Developing spiritual fruits.
- Sharing your feelings with God.
The more that you make a point of remembering to talk to God throughout the day, the more it will become instinctual and a habit. This helps to overcome our fleshly nature, developing our second, true nature.
Remember to spend time just listening to God. When one of God’s children comes calling His name, He is faithful to answer His children. You can hear God’s voice.
Also, remember that prayer is just part of what the verses that we looked at talk about. There’s also a command to worship God and show His love through our actions . Ultimately, it comes back to Psalms 140:13.
Continually dwell in the presence of God, and you’ll find that this immersion in God will change your life !
21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.”