Hello all you wonderful people. Welcome to another Medium-Sized Faith Question. Every second Saturday of the month we will tackle some slightly hefty but still bite sized topics. Today we’re looking at whether it is possible to pray without ceasing and if so, what does it look like.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NKJV)
This is something that crossed my mind when someone on the prayer team with me stated that he prefers long prayers. He stated that he thinks short prayers are only really appropriate when in crisis or something.
I have issues with this.
Long prayers have their place, but here are my main two problems with them:
1. If people think that prayers need to be long, they’re not going to pray unless they believe they have the time to pray. Having a dedicated prayer time is awesome, but that’s not always possible. If we require long prayers, things become more legalistic instead of relational. I’ve needed and wanted to pray before but decided to wait until I had more time. Guess what happened? I forgot to pray. That doesn’t help my relationship.
Then we have to determine what constitutes a long prayer. Is it a certain number of sentences or a certain length of time? Who gets to determine how we define long? Also, what about when you are at a loss for words? Do you have to moan and say ‘Jesus’ on repeat until it’s long enough? Some people say that their religion is a list of rules and rituals. My faith is about a relationship.
When I call home, I might talk to my mom for only 5 minutes or for an entire hour. The amount of time we talk isn’t as important as the relationship that we are growing my having real discussions. None of that surface stuff.
2. Long prayers can be powerful. Long prayers can also be filled with pretty words that mean nothing. Matthew 6:7-8 (NIV) says “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
Have you ever had to do a presentation and had trouble filling the time requirement? You might keep saying the same thing over and over again, but in different ways. Someone that I use to work with would do that when the men in our program got into trouble. He would say it, then say it again in what I assume was his version on “street talk” and sometimes it would be said again. The conversation was at least an hour. Sometimes over 2 hours.
It didn’t do much good. Just because you say a lot of words doesn’t mean that you have something to say or that you should say it.
You may be thinking, “that’s all fine and dandy, but what does this have to do with praying without ceasing?
Well, allow me to answer that.
According to Dictionary.com, cease means “to stop; discontinue.” It can also mean “to come to an end” or “to pass away; die out.” So, I guess we’re suppose to pray without coming to an end or stopping. Our prayers shouldn’t die out.
Cool. Mystery solved. Right?
I have yet to meet someone who is constantly in prayer as we typically think about it. Just like worship, there is more to prayer than you think. Prayer is about speaking to God. The way we live our lives is a way of speaking to God. Our attitude and desires. A breath can be a prayer. A smile can be a prayer. Just not in the traditional sense of the word. We can communicate with God in so many ways, just like in our other relationships.
When I was writing about this in my journal I came across something that was talking about the word used in the text that we have translated as “without ceasing.” Of course, I’m unable to find the source because I had no reason to write that in my journal. But it said it was constantly recurring.
If we think that our prayer should be constantly recurring, it seems less daunting. It seems manageable. We can pray without ceasing, without our prayers dying out. Prayer should not be a one-off. It should be a regular thing. Pray, then pray some more.
Give God thanks as you go throughout your day. Ask God for help in the mist of struggle. Pray the scripture. Say long prayer, short prayers, medium sized prayers, or whatever the moment calls for. Let a hallelujah slip past your lips.
Let your prayers soar to the Heavens. Let your prayers never stop. May you continuously seek God and be in relationship with Him.
Pray without ceasing, my Lovelies. Pray daily and throughout every day. I’ll talk to you soon. Have a wonderful day.