It’s difficult to focus on something continually without either becoming distracted by something else or neglecting other areas of importance. So how in the world are we to pray constantly?
As believers, we are commanded by the Scriptures to pray continually. Here are a few passages to consider:
- Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12
- Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
- Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6
- And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:18
- Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2
A Kaleidoscope Moment
When we have been in the Word a long time, we can get locked into seeing the words from a set perspective. The fresh eyes of a new believer can function like a kaleidoscope and help us see the old familiar passages in new and surprising ways.
“What does pray without seizing mean?” Not seeing the Scripture, just hearing someone else use the phrase, “pray without ceasing” caused this young lady some confusion. It was a sweet misunderstanding easily cleared up by clarifying the words.
Yet, her question stuck with me. I’ve been turning the phrases over and over like a kid peering through one of those magical toys filled with colored bits of glass and mirrors.
My mom has a collection of beautiful kaleidoscopes. These fascinate adults and kids alike. As you peer into the eyepiece a beautiful scene is beheld. Then turn it ever so slightly and a new scene arranges itself before your eyes.
Pray with out ceasing; pray without seizing. I just kept turning those phrases over and over in my mind.
Pray Without Ceasing
Clearly this was an important concept in the early church. The apostle Paul included this instruction in one way or another in most of his letters to the churches of the first century.
So first, let’s allow the meaning of his words to come into focus.
To cease an action is to stop it; to discontinue our endeavor; to allow it to come to an end.
Paul admonishes believers to not stop when it comes to praying. No matter the circumstances, regardless of the odds, keep bringing everything to God.
He also repeatedly connects the concept of gratitude and thanksgiving with this adventure of continually lifting our prayers to God.
As I rolled these ideas around in my noggin, I realized when I am grounded in gratitude for what God has done in Christ, I have a holy perspective on the people, problems, and petitions I bring to God.
By that, I mean I think differently about them than I do when I am looking at them through my human, worldly eyes.
In the Spirit, all occasions become opportunities for God to be revealed and glorified. Whereas from my human position and capabilities, the situation may very well be impossible. However, with God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26) And that is why Paul insists we are to never give up, never decide something or someone is beyond God’s ability to redeem.
Our job is to pray without ceasing, with gratitude and expectation. God’s job is to bring about the outcome.
Praying continually can also mean living our lives in an attitude of prayer. A friend of mine has modeled this so well. I hear her praising and petitioning Jesus for everything: “Thank you Jesus for this beautiful day.” “Jesus help me know what to pray.” No matter is too small or too big. And she doesn’t stop what she’s doing, she just overlays it with prayer. I’m trying to follow her example.
And as I read Paul’s letters, I’m paying more attention to how he infuses prayer into his every circumstance. There are any number of ways we can pray steadfastly.
Pray Without Seizing
Now let’s turn the cylinder and allow those the bits and pieces to glide over the mirrors and show us something new.
Seize has several possible meanings*:
Have you ever had something that weighed so heavily on you that it seemed to choke the life out of you?
Know what I mean? It grabs your attention and blocks out everything else, including God’s Word and wisdom.
It seizes you and you seize it.
I’ve done that. I think I’m praying about it but upon closer examination, I’m actually just worrying about it.
I’m wrestling with it in my own power, trying to come up with my solutions for it, and just dressing it up as prayer by sandwiching it in between holy sounding phrases like: Dear Heavenly Father and In Jesus name, amen.
That’s not praying with out ceasing. And, Paul would probably tell us to knock it off and pray without seizing, instead.
We don’t have to understand something or someone to pray for them.
This is a little different from allowing worry to seize our prayers. I sometimes struggle with knowing what to pray for. So, I just don’t. I seize up.
Again, I have a feeling Paul would remind me to cut it out and get on with my praying.
I don’t have to know the details of a situation. I don’t have to know someone’s name. I don’t have to have a plan for solving the conflict or problem.
I need only lift it to the One who knows all and is sovereign.
When I follow Paul’s counsel to continue steadfastly in prayer, I also remind myself to be watchful and thankful for God’s hand in the situation.
I may or may not get to see how God works the details out. That’s not why I’m called to pray.
If I’m praying with an understanding the outcome is squarely in His hands, not mine, the pressure is released and my prayers are freed up to flow. I can be watchful for an outcome, but whether I see it or not, I can be thankful. I can be confident He is at work to bring it about.
What do you think? What do you find helpful in praying without ceasing (or seizing)? You can leave a comment by clicking here.