“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Consider for a moment how many of the vital things that pertain to life happen “without ceasing.” Like the beating of our heart, or the repetition of our breathing, or the trillions of synapses that fire in our brains and trigger all the vital functions of our life-support system. These each operate “without ceasing.” Indeed, were any of these to abruptly stop — we would die.
Do you think that maybe the same is true of Prayer? There is no question that Prayer is vital to our lives. Perhaps this is why Paul urges us to “pray without ceasing.” Maybe our failure to do so may be a matter of life or death.
Now here is a curious thing. I can do nothing to make my heart beat; that seems to be happening on its own somehow. And I breathe without even thinking about it. And on the matter of the trillions of synapses that are continually firing in my brain; there is no way I can even comprehend that, let alone be responsible for making it happen. All these systems work “without ceasing.”
But in the matter of prayer we are purposely placed at the forefront of personal responsibility. “Pray without ceasing,” Paul says to us. So, this is something we are to do. Actually, the better way to look at it is that we are to join in with what the Holy Spirit is already doing.
Obviously, it is possible to pray without ceasing or otherwise we would not be told to do it. Yet most of us only turn to prayer when we have exhausted all other options. Abraham Lincoln said, “I have many times been driven to my knees by the conscious awareness that I had no where else to turn.”
But there is a better way. We can ask the Holy Spirit to help us to pray without ceasing, and He will!
Paul says, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26 NIV). The Message puts it this way, “If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He (the Holy Spirit) does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.”
Paul then gives us his own testimony concerning this. “So what shall I do?” he asks. “I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15). In context with the passage of Scripture he is clearly talking about the spiritual discipline of praying in tongues.
It is indeed regrettable that there are doctrinal divisions over this most profound and empowering practice, but it nevertheless stands in Scripture as one of the things we can do in cooperating with the Holy Spirit in prayer….especially in this matter of “praying without ceasing.”
Jude said, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires. These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit” (Jude 1:18,19 NIV). And then he tells us what to do when the last days are here, “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life” (Jude 1:20).
It is through prayer in the Spirit that we build ourselves up in faith, and keep ourselves centered in God’s love – especially in light of the increasing challenges of the last days. And let me just say that if praying in tongues is no longer for today, then why would Jude encourage the practice of it by believers who live in the Last Days?
Yes, I can see there is yet much more to say about this important matter of prayer, so tomorrow we will look at what Jesus said when the disciples ask Him, “Lord, Teach us to pray.”