I remember bombarding my fourth-grade Sunday school teacher with questions about the verse, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Her answer only increased my confusion: “It means to stay in an ‘attitude’ of prayer” was her firm (and joyless) reply.
“An attitude of prayer” . . .? I couldn’t reconcile her answer with my struggle as I read and re-read this verse. What is an “attitude of prayer” . . . what is ceaseless praying . . . what is God telling me to do in this verse? I really wanted to understand.
I stayed frustrated about what ceaseless prayer really meant until I came across a little book that is now one of my dearest treasures. It was written by a 17th century follower of Christ and it contains conversations and letters on the subject of prayer.
While reading this simple treatise on prayer life, I began to understand that my approach to prayer was far too mechanical. Then the light bulb came on. I realized the “attitude of prayer” my Sunday school teacher spoke of, was actually the practice of continual fellowship with God.
Ceaseless prayer is simply the practice of abiding in Christ’s presence.
Things were starting to make sense. What an awesome thought—to stay in Christ’s presence 24/7!
I think there is a tendency to get so caught up with the specific “how-to’s” of prayer, that we forget what prayer is. Prayer is more than a diagrammed monologue. Prayer is uniting my heart with God’s. It is worship, adoration, crying out in need, and telling Him my thoughts about the day. Prayer involves asking questions—lots of questions—and waiting for His response. It is sharing every moment with Him, acknowledging His presence and activity in my life—24/7.
When I was young and questioning this prayer thing, this helpful instruction from almost four hundred years ago, made a huge difference in my approach to prayer:
“I have found that we can establish ourselves in a sense of the presence of God by continually talking with Him. It is simply a shameful thing to quit conversing with Him to think of trifles and foolish things . . . we must become accustomed to a familiar, humble, and very affectionate conversation with the Lord Jesus. You must stop your spirit from wandering from the Lord no matter what the circumstances are. You must make your heart a spiritual temple, a temple where you can go to adore Him incessantly.”
Adoring Christ incessantly within your heart . . . that’s ceaseless prayer.
As we focus on prayer, consider what it means to “abide in Him.” Perhaps you can read John 15:1-11 prayerfully today and ask Him to give you a more keen understanding of what it means to abide in continual communication with Him.
One note of warning: A prayer life isn’t meant to fill you with warm fuzzies and leave you unchanged. Coming into His presence can be comforting, assuring, and encouraging . . . but it can also mean blazing moments of conviction. A fruitful prayer life will involve peeling back layers of corruption, and repenting of sin, as I approach a Holy God and open my heart to receive His refining work. I’ll say more about that tomorrow (and on that warm and fuzzy note, I’m sure you’re ready to jump right in to read that post!).
What are some of the ways you’ve learned to abide in His presence through prayer?
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