Pray Without Ceasing
- July 04, 2019
- Jessica Fields
Prayer might be a spiritual gift, but I don’t think it’s mine.
But just like evangelism, mercy, giving, and serving, it’s something we’re still all called to, regardless of our ‘skill’ in the area.
While writing to the Thessalonians, Paul tells them to (1) rejoice always, (2) pray without ceasing, and (3) give thanks in all circumstances. And I have a hunch that the middle habit, to pray without ceasing, might be the key to rejoicing always and being continually thankful.
I am in a state of not praying far more often than I’m in a state of prayer, so it’s clear to me that I’m failing to live up to what feels like an impossible command. And yet, this unceasing prayer is the will of God for me, just as His will for me is to follow His commands and not sin. I’m failing to adhere to that one as well.
I don’t imagine, though, that Paul’s command was meant to only remind the Thessalonians of their failures. I think it was primarily meant to bring about hope, and to serve as a reminder of Christ’s great sacrifice on our behalf. Our sin and failure was reconciled through the death of Christ.
This call to rejoice, pray, and be thankful is sandwiched in with reminders that we are sons and daughters of the light. We were and are appointed not to suffer, but to receive salvation. We are urged to encourage, to help, and to be patient, holding on to good and avoiding evil. This call to prayer is a call to hope.
At the risk of getting too political, I think we need a whole lot of supernatural hope in our world right now. It’s a sad, broken, hurting place, with people forgetting that we, every single one of us, were created in God’s image and are deeply and profoundly loved by our Creator.
One night, when I was feeling a bit helpless, I texted a friend, telling him I’d prayed, but that I was unsure about what I could actually do to help. His response was simple, but it has profoundly shaped the way I view prayer – he told me, “Prayer is doing something.”
That isn’t to say that God’s people aren’t called to work in other ways in our community, because I’d argue we have a biblical mandate to, but prayer has to be how we begin the process. Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. If we don’t pray, and trust that our Holy God hears our prayers, we risk trying, and failing, to fix the world by our own merit.
And justice without the Gospel is temporary. Healing without the Gospel is superficial. Love without the Gospel is circumstantial.
This holds true for the individual as well. When we pray, God is faithful to answer, even if that answer is a ‘no’ or a ‘wait’. When I pray regularly and honestly, I trust God more, and I work to align my will with His. A practice of prayer reminds me that God is close, and that He is actively working. And when my prayers move from requests into prayers of rejoicing and thanksgiving, I know I’m moving towards a life that is healthier and more filled with peace.
A year ago I started praying earnestly, seeking joy and attempting to be thankful. And this past year, without question, has been my happiest year. I would argue that’s not just correlation, but causation.
If you’re hesitant to pray, whether that’s due to fear, anxiety, or indifference, let me leave you with the prayer Christ gave His disciples to pray, with the hope that it draws you all the more close to the God who answers:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:9-13)