Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV
Most of us are familiar with that three-word verse from the apostle Paul. Depending on our
interpretation, it has opened up tremendous possibilities or has been the cause of frustration.How
do you pray without ceasing? Is it even possible? I understand that verse to be saying, Keep on praying; never give up!
I would like to reflect on prayer as a verban activity, or spiritual discipline. All of us have
our unique experiences in praying, and most of us yearn for a better prayer life.
Some of our frustrations result from a lack of time or the absence of a disciplined practice.
Perhaps unfulfilled expectations or a smattering of guilt followed our best efforts. Then, too, weve
heard glowing testimonies from others who had found an enriching, empowering, enjoyable prayer
Might it help to realize that your personal prayer life is between you and God and, therefore,
not like anyone elses? The time of day, the length of time, the bodily posture, the words used or not
used, whether you are spiritual or notnone of these matter. What is important is that you and God
have a heart-to-heart visit. Prayer is communion with God. That may be what Paul meant when he
wrote many times about being in Christ.
Prayer is one of the practices (holy habits) that cultivate our spiritual formation, precisely
because it is an exercise of being in Christ. According to one writer, prayer is basic to the process of
being shaped by the Spirit into the likeness of Christ, filled with love for God and the world.2
In other places, I have recommended an attitude toward prayer that seeks less of having our
needs met or answers provided and more of the presence of the holy Trinity in the entirety of our
lives.3 Often called contemplative prayer, usually consisting of Bible reading, silence, meditation, and
waiting, this type of prayer seeks to receive and cultivate the presence of God. The focus is
inwardsoul and life examination, receptivity, and quieting the mind, body, and spirit. On the other
hand, intercessory prayer is more outwardly focused. I believe that the former is needed to undergird
the labor of the latter and to prepare for, energize, and guide our work of ministry and faithful
witness in the world. Sometimes we blend the two together. The bottom line for praying is, I
believe, just do it!
O God, teach us to pray as the Disciples asked, and remind us that it is mainly through practice that we learn.
Enable us by your grace to live prayerful lives, to keep on praying and never give up! Amen.
– Dr. Dwight Grubbs, Retired Pastor and Instructor at Mid-America Christian University and
Anderson University School of Theology.