Ryan Bitters put up a little comic on his blog and we got into a little discussion on what it really means to pray continually?
let’s look at the verse and the context for the verse.
“Therefore rejoice always, pray continuously (without ceasing in some translations), in all situations give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18
This is right at the end of the book of Thessalonians in Paul’s signing off note and he seems to be giving instructions on how to live in a healthy relationship with other church members AND with God. In fact, straight after Paul warns not to quench the spirit and to reject evil. So this section with Pray continually seem to fit into that pattern.
This is how to have a good relationship with God, pray continually, rejoice always and give thanks in all situations. (a tough call when we remember what happened to Job).
Does Paul really mean pray all the time?
Is that really possible? When I think of prayer I think of something that takes effort to do, it isn’t like breathing where we don’t even have to think about doing it and it still happens. Jesus’s example of prayer in Luke 11:1-13 Jesus doesn’t say it just happens but gives them some example words which where the prayer praises God, thanks him for his gifts, asks for forgiveness and ask for what they need that day.
Jesus then goes on to show that we should pray for all things we are in need of.
Perhaps this is the attitude we need? In all situation ask God what he wants, give him thanks, pray that his will be done.
What actually happens
I don’t know about you but I tend to fall into two traps.
- I pray for things that I can do myself and not for “impossible things”
- I don’t pray for the “little things”
Not really all things at all times, or continuously.
I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve to try to pray more. I try to pray on the hour every hour (when I manage to see a clock), I try to use moments like washing up to pray (what else is there to do!) but I’m still far from perfect here.
We won’t be perfect until Christ returns and perhaps that’s what we need to take hold of. One day we will be in perfect communion with God, one day we will pray continually. Until then we need to stumble on as best we can. That’s not to say we just accept our flaws, but we know that it won’t be perfect but we can become more like Christ (via the holy spirit)