How do you “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)? It is, of course, physically and mentally impossible to pray every minute of the day, and it would leave little room for doing the many other works God expects of His children. So what did Paul mean?
Some have suggested that Paul meant for his readers and for all Christians to be in an attitude of prayer at every moment, having a continual consciousness of God’s presence and accessibility. This attitude would overflow naturally into actual praying throughout the day. This is not an inappropriate suggestion, and it does reflect an experience that many Christians can testify to in their own lives. However, there is probably another suggestion that is more in line with the apostle’s words.
To pray without ceasing is to never give up praying. It is unrelenting prayer. It means not looking at our various circumstances and losing heart, but rather looking constantly, in every situation, to God who is able to bear every weight we stumble under. And this is how Jesus instructed his disciples when he told them “a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). This is how Paul instructed the Philippian church when he said, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6), or in Ephesians 6:18, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests…and always keep on praying for all the saints.”
Paul modeled this kind of prayer and referred to it often in his opening prayer reports in each of his letters:
God…is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times (Romans 1:9,10)
I always thank God for you (1 Corinthians 1:4)
Ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ…may give you the Spirit of wisdom…(Ephesians 1:15-17)
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy…(Philippians 1:3,4)
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you…(Colossians 1:3)
We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. (1 Thessalonians 1:2)
I constantly remember you in my prayers. (2 Timothy 1:4)
I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers…(Philemon 4)
Though praying every moment of the day is not possible, there are so many more moments that we could capitalize on, praying in our hearts without ceasing.