Pray Without Ceasing1
“Pray without ceasing." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
I remember my first encounter with this verse. It was in a Sunday School class where, I imagine, the teacher figured a three-word verse would be the perfect size for our little brains to memorize. After nailing that memory verse game, I remember thinking about how crazy this verse actually was. How in the world could someone go all day without...going to the bathroom. Yes, for whatever reason my 1st grade mind figured that “ceasing” has something to do with going to the bathroom. Well, thankfully over the years, the Lord not only increased my knowledge of the English language, but also my understanding of his Divine Word.
Recently, the Holy Spirit allowed me to come across this quote by a Civil War General named Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. It reads as follows:
“A friend once asked him what was his understanding of the Bible command to ‘pray without ceasing.’ ‘I can give you,’ he said, ‘my idea of it by illustration, if you will allow it, and will not think that I am setting myself up as a model for others. I have so fixed the habit in my own mind that I never raise a glass of water to my lips without lifting my heart to God in thanks and prayer for the water of life. Then, when we take our meals, there is the grace. Whenever I drop a letter in the post-office, I send a petition along with it for God’s blessing upon its mission and the person to whom it is sent. When I break the seal of a letter just received, I stop to ask God to prepare me for its contents and make it a messenger of good. When I go to my classroom and await the arrangement of the cadets in their places, that is my time to intercede with God for them. And so in every act of the day, I have made the practice habitual.’ When a friend asked if he sometimes forgot to do this he responded, ‘I can hardly say that I do, the habit has become almost as fixed as to breathe.’”
This is one of clearest instances I have come across that provides a practical example of what “praying without ceasing” should look like. It spurred me on to attempt my own journey to pray without ceasing, and I want to share with you the 3 biggest things that have changed in my life once I began attempting to pray without ceasing:
1. My awareness of sin and desire to repent of that sin increased. There is something about continually conversing with an all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-gracious God that forces you to see your sin for what it is, and gives you the desire to be rid of that sin as fast as possible in order to continue communing with him.
2. Anxiety and worry diminished. This was marvelous. It made me realize how much of the day I spent consumed with self and comfort. Talking to the God who gave up the majesty of heaven in order to be beaten and killed for me so that I may have life everlasting put all my trivial worries and fears in their rightful place. My Heavenly Father is in total control, what can mere man do to me?
3. I began to think of others more and less of myself. It is literally impossible to talk with the God who died for sinners in the greatest act of selflessness this world has ever known, and continue to look out for your own desires. He loves us too much to allow us to continue to think about ourselves.
These are just three of the main things that happened in my life after my meager attempt to “pray without ceasing”. Go to the Lord and ask for his help with this command. And next time you see me, let me know what the Lord has been teaching you on your journey to pray without ceasing, I would love to hear!
(Jordan, Mandy, Laityn, Evan, and Mason)