Pray without ceasing? Was the Apostle Paul serious? How is that possible? Am I to quit my job, abandon my family and run away from all semblance of modern life? Should I check into a monastery in some austere location so that I can offer up endless mantras of prayer to God?
This passage of Scripture from I Thessalonians has always troubled me. I always felt as if I could never live up to 3 word command. And, yet since I believe the Bible from cover to cover I have always known that it is certainly a key to my spiritual walk in Christ. Therefore, I have asked God to show me how to pray without ceasing in my life. I am nowhere near mastering the concept. However, I do believe God is giving me a glimpse into what it can mean in my life.
For years, I have prayed usually in sentences. I have prayed for my parents, my wife, my kids, my coworkers and other situations that come to mind. The prayers have been largely statements. It’s not that I order God around like a celestial Santa Claus. My prayers have been more along the lines of “Lord, I pray for reconciliation in the marriage of Bill and Sue. I pray you would bind Satan from their marriage and instead cause them to see each other today with the love they first had for each other. Help them to listen more and speak less to each other’s needs. I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Essentially, there’s nothing wrong with that prayer. However, I haven’t really given God a chance to speak back to me. I haven’t really asked Him how He would like me to pray. In John 10:27, Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me.” The secular press loves to have a heyday when a politician says he hears God’s voice. They immediately envision some scenario like The Ten Commandments where Charlton Heston hears the voice of God passing to him the ten commandments. But, for those of us who pray there is no mistake that we have heard the voice of God routinely in our spiritual walk with Christ. In fact, ask a minister how he knew he was to go into ministry and the majority of them will tell you they were “called to preach”. How did they know? They knew because in their heart they heard the quiet voice of God.
Lately, I have spent more time asking God questions in my prayer life. When I see someone coming down the hall, I ask God to give me wisdom in how to pray for that person. If a person cuts me off in traffic, instead of embarking on a verbal tirade about how they got their drivers license from a mail order catalog I ask God how to pray for them. When I walk into a grocery store, as I shop I see people and I ask God to please reveal to me how to pray for each person. Often I don’t have any clear impression on how to pray. But, occasionally God will show me very clearly how to pray for someone. I am finding the key is asking God questions in prayer. I am finding more joy in prayer and I am finding a pressing desire to pray far more often.