First Thoughts

Praying Without Ceasing

Most Christians know that 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says that we are supposed to “pray without ceasing.” But how are we supposed to start a prayer that never ends? Don’t we have to live life in a way that requires us to say “amen,” then get up and go do the stuff we have been praying about?

Recently I have begun to think more seriously about what it means to lead a life of ceaseless prayer. While I believe some aspects of this kind of life will always be “under construction,” I also have begun to delight in how this pursuit can change everything about how we live—in the most beautiful ways!

I remember as a child watching the old Batman series with Adam West. Commissioner Gordon had this special hotline to Batman on a pedestal under a glass cover in his office. It was called the Batphone, and it had no rotary dial on it (which all phones had at that time in the 60s and 70s). But when the commissioner picked it up, it rang directly to the Batcave, and Batman was always there to pick it up (sometimes it was Alfred, but the same result always occurred). Help would be on the way immediately.

We most often look at prayer as a hotline to God. And in many ways, it is. We pick up the “phone” when we are in trouble, and there is the God of the Universe on the other end of the line. This fact still amazes me!

Then we hang it up with an “amen” when we are ready to “get back to it.” While I believe that devoted times of focused prayer are necessary throughout the day, I also have come to delight in the reality that God never “hangs up” his end of the line.

Maybe I don’t have to either.

God is omnipresent. He is everywhere in the same measure all the time. Jesus promised that he would “never leave us,” wherever we go—even “to the ends of the earth.” The Spirit indwells us permanently, and therefore we have the presence of God with us all the time.

So why do we act as if the prayer phone is still under a glass cover back in the office? God never hangs up his end of the line. Why do we hang up our side of the conversation?

What if we start trying to speak to God in every situation of every day? Not out loud all the time, but sometimes. Most often, it could be a whisper or even a conversation with him in our hearts and minds.

What if we challenge ourselves each day to keep this conversation going throughout every circumstance? We begin by opening our eyes in the morning, thanking God for the new day, and praising him. We continue to speak with him throughout our morning devotion and time getting ready for the day. We talk to him about what we have to do that day and where we have to go.

We pray at each meal, and we continue to speak with him as we drive, encounter people, take up new tasks, and go through every aspect of our day. When we have a conversation with someone, we also talk to God silently, asking how he wants us to respond to this person. When we walk into a restaurant, we ask God where he wants us to sit. When we get in the car, we ask him how he wants us to use that time. When we find ourselves waiting, we use the time to “wait on God.”

What if we continue this ongoing conversation until we lay our heads on the pillow at night? There we could recount how he was with us and helped us through every part of our day. Then we could fall asleep while talking to him, knowing that he would continue to stay awake with us. And when we wake up in the middle of the night (which some of us are prone to do quite often), we continue the conversation we started with him earlier.

What if we start doing this today? Perhaps we are not very good at it, and we keep forgetting to talk to God as often as we want. But we speak to him more than we usually do. Then we try again tomorrow, and we talk to him a little more.

What if we kept doing this every day, a little more each day? I bet this would lead us to talk to God so much that we begin to connect these times of praying like connecting dots in a picture. If we could do this every day and get a little better at it each day, we might just become a ceaseless pray-er. We might change everything about ourselves and those around us. We might change the world!

Scott Connell

Pastor of Worship and Music

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