There are many Bible stories and scriptures that have become so familiar to me over time that I can’t really recall the first time I ever heard or read them. But there is one scripture, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, that I can actually distinctly remember the first time I ever read. It’s couched in a longer sentence, but the whole of verse 17 is marvelously short. Just three words: “Pray without ceasing.”
I remember reading this for the first time because it was shortly after I’d been baptized as an elementary aged kid. I was a fresh follower of Jesus, still wet behind the ears, but doing my absolute best to read the Bible and do what it said. And when I stumbled upon this simple three-word command to “pray without ceasing,” I panicked.
How am I supposed to do that??? I can barely sit still for an hour of Sunday School, and you’re telling me I’m supposed to bow my head and fold my hands and pray to God for the rest of my life without stopping?! What about when I need to sleep? Wait, am I sinning now if I accidentally fall asleep when I pray?! Oh no. I am in a world of trouble.
Eight-year-old Lydia had her heart in the right place but needed some guidance. Thankfully, 25-year-old Lydia has a little more context for what this verse means (even though I don’t sit still much better than I did then).
To pray without ceasing probably looks less like being in a constant state of bowed head and folded hands, and more like just sharing every part of my life with God.
To pray without ceasing means I partner with God in everything I do, from washing the dishes to writing a devo.
To pray without ceasing doesn’t mean that I do everything while talking aloud to Him, but it does mean that I do nothing apart from Him.
The NIV says “pray continually.” The NLT says “never stop praying.” The ESV says “pray without ceasing.” Whichever way you like to read it… maybe we ought to try it!
Practice unceasing prayer today by doing this: When your eyes pop open in the morning and your feet hit the floor, let the first part of your day be inviting God to share in it with you. Every moment, thought, feeling, and task—do it with God!