Unceasing Prayer

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There are times when you see directives in the Bible that you just think are impossible, so you just feel like not even trying. One example is the call for unceasing prayer. Like all texts in the Bible, it’s best to get the context, so please note:

1 Thessalonians 5:12–25 (ESV) — 12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil. 23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. 25 Brothers, pray for us.

In case you missed it, we are considering the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “pray without ceasing,” or unceasing prayer.

Taking these words briefly it seems impossible to “pray without ceasing,” as if that is all you do. But is that what God is calling us to do?

I know of many ministers who in seminary read of Martin Luther and others spending three or four hours in prayer then found it quite discouraging when they couldn’t do the same. Jesus spent the night in prayer on more than one occasion, but should we seek to do that as well?

Before we rate ourselves on the quantity of hours spent in prayer, even to unceasing prayer, maybe we should go back to what Jesus taught in that our time with Him is more about the heart and coming in desperation rather than seeing how long we can endure. In fact, if you will notice what Jesus taught concerning increasing our faith, He pointed to faithfulness in the little things, which would include prayer.

Luke 17:5–10 (ESV) — 5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. 7 “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’

Faithfulness in prayer would include praying and not giving up, but also coming back again and again to God believing that He exists and He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Hebrews 11:6 (ESV) — 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Luke 11:5–13 (ESV) — 5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Luke 18:1–8 (ESV) — 1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

When it comes to unceasing prayer, there seems to be a constant draw to pray again and again as well as a constant state of fellowship and conversation as you go through your day. Yes, there are given times of pouring your heart out to God as the Holy Spirit directs and helps you to pray.

Romans 8:26–27 (ESV) — 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

As you pray, you enjoy fellowship with God and that sense of fellowship brings you back again and again throughout the day. In other words, the call of prayer becomes a prompting of the heart to seek after God, rather than a duty to which you set a clock. Obviously, those times of fellowship are prompted by and encouraged by the discipline of having a time with God, but the child of God should be ready for the working of the Holy Spirit to prompt throughout the day to further times, albeit short or long, that you find yourself in communion and communication with your Heavenly Father.

Romans 8:15–16 (ESV) — 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

May that spirit of communion and communication be as “unceasing prayer” as you go through your day, so that it’s almost as if you never left the throne of grace.


Bob Brubaker

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