"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 1 Thessalonians 5:1
We talked about this in our small group a couple of months ago. Not about this verse in particular, but about praying without ceasing and what that might look like if we could actually accomplish it.
Some of the folks in our group, the leader in particular, suggested that it doesn't really mean that we are supposed to be constantly in prayer, but that our prayers should not cease. In other words, if we normally pray for ten minutes on a daily basis, we should never stop doing that.
Personally, I think that's sort of a cop-out.
If you put the phrase in context with the rest of the verse - "Rejoice always...give thanks in all circumstances" - it makes it difficult to avoid the superlative, the absolute quality the verse seems to indicate. No, to me, "pray without ceasing" means that I ought to be constantly in prayer, 100% of the time, no matter what I'm doing. With every breath, with every heartbeat, with each and every thought I need to be in prayer.
Seems a little impractical, doesn't it? I mean, how am I supposed to get anything done if all I do is sit around praying?
Well, that's not what I'm talking about and I don't think it's what Paul meant, either. To me, praying without ceasing means being in constant communion with God. It's nothing more than a realization, a recognition that God is constantly with me, beside me no matter where I am, no matter what I'm doing, and his desire, his will, is that I acknowledge his presence and simply talk to him, communicate with him - yes, even chat with him.
When my lovely spouse and I take a road trip, I often eat sunflower seeds in order to stay alert on the road, and, to be honest, it annoys my wife. Why? It isn't because she dislikes sunflower seeds (even though she does), and it isn't because I spit the shells all over the floor of the car (which I never do). It's just because I can sometimes drive for hours at a time without talking to her, and it can appear as though I'm eating my seeds instead of communicating with her - using the seeds to keep me alert instead of staying alert by chatting with her. She gets jealous of the seeds because it seems like they're taking her place.
I think it's sort of the same with God. He wants us to talk to him and stop ignoring him. I mean, he's sitting right there and we go on as if we were alone in our thoughts, ignoring him and focusing on those other things that we think are so important. And yes, I think God, the Creator of the Universe, gets a little jealous . . . maybe even a lot jealous of those things that get in the way of our relationship with him.
The thing is, we don't have to change the way we live, the way we work, the way we interact with other people - we don't have to stop eating sunflower seeds - we just have to let God in on our lives and remember that he is always with us and he wants to be involved in our lives. Once we learn to live with the recognition that God is constantly with us and to include him in every thought, we are truly in constant prayer.
Father God, help me today, right now, to be continually aware of your presence. I want more than anything else to be in touch with you with my every thought, and to be constantly thankful for your love and guidance and protection in whatever circumstances I find myself - because no matter where I am, you are right there with me. Thank you, Father. My heart rejoices every time I remember. I love you, Lord.