What Does It Really Mean to Pray Without Ceasing?

pray without ceasing

The Christian life isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s usually the very opposite. It’s no secret that the more intentional you are about pursuing the Lord, the more forcefully Satan tends to come against you in your efforts. And in the times when things get rough, or we need a rock to lean against, one of the greatest and most powerful ways we can combat the “fiery arrows of the devil” (Eph. 6:16) is to pray without ceasing.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

The apostle Paul knew this truth better than most.

In our humanness, prayer is the most direct communication we have with the Lord. He hears our cries.

For many people believers, Paul’s instructions to pray without ceasing sound inspirational, poetic, and desirable. But is it actually possible to do? Can anyone truly go through their days, weeks, months and years in today’s society and actually pray without ceasing?

I mean, what does it even look like to pray without ceasing? In all honesty, it sounds exhausting. Like, a lot of work.

But think about this: the Greek word for “without ceasing” in 1 Thessalonian 5:17 is adialeiptos, which doesn’t mean nonstop — but instead means constantly recurring.

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Don’t we already do things that are constantly recurring? Our phones and mobile devices alone are a breeding ground for habits that are constantly recurring.

In between meetings and conversations, what do we do? We scroll through Facebook or Instagram. We look at our 4-inch screens all day long and send text messages that are recurring.

And those things come as second nature to us.

Don’t you think that if we are CALLED to pray without ceasing, we could do so in a constant, and recurring fashion like we do with texting and social media?

We often think of prayer as closing our eyes, bowing our heads, and entering into the presence of the Lord with folded hands.

And while our position in prayer is important, communication with God does not require a certain physical position. Postures give expression to the attitudes of our hearts, but don’t think for a second that you can’t pray without ceasing because it’s impossible to be on your knees in prayer all day long.

In an article for the Washington Times, Barry Black writes, “While in college, I fell in love with the woman I would eventually marry. That romantic experience helped me better frame this biblical command to pray continuously, punctuating one’s life with prayer.”

He continues, “I knew intuitively that it’s possible to love without ceasing, for the presence of one’s beloved engenders recurring adoration. For me, that adoration has continued unabated for decades.”

Black says that this same adoration for God ultimately enables you to be continuously aware of His presence. And in His presence, you CAN, in fact, pray without ceasing.

“This adoration can transform sporadic and stammering prayers into a constant and characteristic attitude of reverence and dependence on a higher power.”

I think if we’re honest with ourselves, much of our lives as believers are spent filling moments with sporadic prayers, and empty requests.

God knows the closeness that comes from a relationship with Him. He longs to be near to us. His desire to grow in relationship with us is no different than our desire to grow in relationship with others.

I love how Barry Black illustrated that parallel. Anyone who has ever been in love knows just how many times in a day you think about your significant other.

My husband is always on my mind. Not non-stop, but consistently. Things remind me of him, I long to be near him, and when we’re apart during the day, a piece of my heart genuinely misses him. I’m aware of my husband and the love I have for him all day long. And that started when we were first dating.

So if we know that the awareness of someone we love, can, in fact, permeate itself in a constant, recurring manner throughout the day, then we also know that it is possible, without a doubt, to pray without ceasing.

We are surrounded by countless reminders of the Lord. The air we breathe, creation around us, the blessing that is just being alive, they’re all the most BASIC reminders of our savior and his constant presence in our lives.

Dive deeper. Think about the process in which you got the job that you have the privilege of going to each morning. I bet your story, and the past that led you there has God written all over it. What about your friendships? You know that the Lord doesn’t bring people into your life by mistake. There is purpose in all of those things, and they are constant reminders of a Savior who longs to be in closeness with you.

Pray without ceasing: It’s being constantly aware of the Lord’s presence and pursuing Him above all things.

I pray that this perspective is just what you need to go deeper in your walk with Christ today. His love for you runs deep, and His mercies are new every morning. Be constantly aware of His presence today, and encourage those you love to do the same. Together we can lift each other up as we pray without ceasing.

Kelsey Straeter
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Kelsey is an editor at Outreach. She’s passionate about fear fighting, freedom writing, and the pursuit of excellence in the name of crucifying perfectionism. Glitter is her favorite color, 2nd only to pink, and 3rd only to pink glitter.