Pray Without Ceasing

pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NKJV)

Praying to the great God of heaven is one of the greatest and most amazing privileges we have as believers. One of my favorite passages that mention prayer is in the Psalms 116.

I love the LORD, because He has heard My voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.” Psalm 116:1-2 (NKJV)

The Psalmist says that he loves the Lord because the Lord has heard his prayer and since the Lord has heard his prayer he will call out to God as long as he lives.

I would probably say that these two verses give us a perfect picture of how prayer is supposed to be. Since we love God we want to spend time praying to Him. It should be fairly natural for us to spend time praying to God. There shouldn’t be anything awkward or uncomfortable about it because we love God and we know that He hears our prayers.

That’s why Paul says we are to pray without ceasing. The idea of pray without ceasing is an interesting one. One the one hand, the Bible does say that is what we are supposed to do. On the other hand, I’m not actually praying right now, are you? Now see, I’m convinced that every command in Scripture is actually doable.

Every command is either something we can do or something God will enable us to do. But there is no way we can be praying at every moment of every day. Even if we quit our jobs and knelt around the altar we’d eventually need to sleep and so we wouldn’t be praying. So how are we to understand this? I understand this in two ways.

The first is that believers are to have a consistent time of prayer. Commentator Albert Barnes says, “We are to observe the duty of prayer in the closet, in the family, and in the assembly convened to call on the name of the Lord. We are not to allow this duty to be interrupted or intermitted by any trifling cause. We are so to act that it may be said we pray regularly in the closet, in the family, and at the usual seasons when the church prays to which we belong.”[1]

A regular time of prayer should be normal for a believer. It should be such a part of our lives that when things come up that keep us from this regular time of prayer, we should feel off. We should feel as though something were missing from our lives. What I have found in my life is that this time must be built into my schedule. For me, it is something I put down first on my schedule and then I build the rest of my schedule around it. I do this because if I just say, “Sometime today I’m going to pray” that time never materializes. There is always something going on or something that needs to be done and so time to pray never comes unless I set it in stone.

This is also one of the reasons I pray in the mornings before anyone else gets up. This allows me to start my day with the Lord and spend that necessary time in prayer. However, I know that we aren’t all morning people and so early in the morning won’t work with everyone. So each of us needs to pray at the time of the day when we can be most focused on God. It should be a time when we have few distractions, are most alert and can be most focused on God. It can be morning, afternoon or evening. The time isn’t as important as the consistency about it. Each and every believer should have a regular, daily time of prayer.

The second thing I understand Paul to be saying here is that we are to maintain a constant spirit or attitude of prayer. Albert Barnes says, “We are to be in such a frame of mind as to be ready to pray publicly if requested; and when alone, to improve any moment of leisure which we may have when we feel ourselves strongly inclined to pray.”[2]

I tend to think of this in terms of what Charles Spurgeon called breath prayers. He described breath prayers as short prayers that are breathed out to God at various times throughout the day. These aren’t long in-depth prayers but they are prayers nonetheless.  These could be prayers of praise, “I love you Lord.” They could be prayers of thanksgiving, “Thank you Lord.” They could be prayers of intercession, “Protect them Lord.” Or they could be prayers of supplication, “Help me Lord.” These breath prayers are simply a way for us to stay in constant communion with God throughout the day.

This is what it means to pray without ceasing. To have this kind of prayer life will require us to be very intentional about developing this kind of prayer life. It won’t happen accidently. It won’t happen easily. There are ten million things that will happen in our day to keep us from praying. There are ten million things that will try to distract us during our prayer time. Despite this we must pray without ceasing.

[1] Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament Explanatory and Practical,

[2] Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament Explanatory and Practical,


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