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
All Christians in all places at all times are to be joyful, prayerful, and thankful. The verbs are normal. The adverbs are radical: Always. Without ceasing. In all circumstances. The three exhortations stand together. To rejoice always is to pray without ceasing. To pray without ceasing is to give thanks in all circumstances. Yet each exhortation stands alone.
What does it mean to pray without ceasing?
Pray constantly. To pray without ceasing is to pray continually or constantly. Prayer is to be a way of life. My smartphone becomes a paperweight if it is not charged. So I keep a charge by my bed, in my car, at my desk, and in my bag. I borrow one, if necessary. Moreover, the Christian life does not work without believing prayer.
Pray Dependently. You will not pray if you do not sense your need for God. You will not pray right if you do not sense your need for God. You will not pray without ceasing if you do not sense your need for God. Prayer is a declaration of dependence on God. To pray without ceasing does not mean do nothing but pray. It means do nothing without prayer.
Pray Obediently. We pray without ceasing because God commands us to pray without ceasing. It is an act of submissive obedience that is its own reward. There are things you should not do because God commands us to pray without ceasing. Avoid people, places, and practices that may tempt you not to pray without ceasing.
Pray eagerly. “Pray without ceasing” is a command and a privilege. It is something you ought to do and get to do. You cannot randomly walk into the Oval Office to meet with the president. But God commands us to pray without ceasing. Do not allow your prayer life to become routine, mechanical, or halfhearted. Pray with all your heart!
Pray Devotionally. Continual prayer involves more than “saying prayers.” You cannot always be in prayer. You can always be prayerful. Live in a spirit of prayer. You don’t have to be on constant communication with God to be in constant communion with God. It is better to have a heart of prayer with no words than words of prayer with no heart.
Pray Regularly. Start and end your day with God. Establish prayer triggers throughout the day. Pray before you start driving. Pray as you go from one class to the next. Pray before you dial the next number on your call sheet. In a crisis, Daniel prayed as he had done previously (Daniel 6:10). To pray effectively when a crisis arises, pray regularly before the crisis arises.
Pray Spontaneously. “Without ceasing” was the word for a hacking cough. Have you ever had a bad cough? You cough throughout the day. You cough through conversations. You cannot hide the need to cough. It wakes you up at night. The attempt to suppress the cough only makes you cough harder. In the same way, pray without ceasing!
Pray Persistently. This is the primary point of 1 Thessalonians 5:17: Don’t stop praying. Continue steadfastly in prayer. Prosperity preachers teach it is a lack of faith to pray about something more than once. The truth is that it is a lack of faith to stop praying before you get an answer. It happens after prayer! But it won’t happen if you stop praying!
Pray actively. Prayer is active, not passive. It is not “let go and let God.” It is hold on and let God! To pray sincerely is to open for God to use you as a part of the answer. Your prayer is not prayer if your life is not a prayer. It does not matter that you pray on your knees as much as it matters that you put feet on your prayers. Make your life a prayer.
Pray Confidently. Many Christians live by faith but pray by works. When we do good, we pray. When we sin, we avoid prayer. This rollercoaster reflects a misunderstanding of saving-faith. Christians pray with confidence, because “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Because of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is the heavenly Father’s will that his children ask him what we need.