How is this possible?
Have you ever heard of that expression?
It’s a short verse from a short letter in the Bible that the apostle Paul wrote to the newly formed Thessalonian church. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 he says in the midst of other encouragements… “pray continually”.
And by extension, Paul instructs us.
So how is this possible…to ‘pray continually’?
We’ve all seen many images of what praying can look like. Being on our knees, eyes closed, hands folded… or kneeling at a bedside… or sitting in a group together with heads bowed, or standing with hands lifted to heaven. Certainly these are not incorrect, but they can’t be the only postures compatible with praying continually.
Here are 4 brief thoughts on what ‘praying continually’ includes.
1. Awareness. To ‘pray continually’, means that moment by moment, throughout our entire day, we maintain an awareness of God’s presence in our daily life, and keep a presence of His Word in our life.
His Word says in Psalm 37:5, “Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust in Him and He will help you.”
Moment by moment, activity by activity, we can commit everything we endeavor to do to the LORD by talking to Him through prayer. We maintain an ongoing conversation with God all day, integrated with His Word and our very actions. He leads and guides us as we trust in Him for every activity. He is very near to us and He will indeed help us.
2. Seeking. Overlapping with this, ‘praying continually’ means speaking to God and seeking His direction all day long while we go about our work.
Nehemiah 2: 4 & 5 says, “Then I (Nehemiah) prayed to the God of heaven and answered the king…” Nehemiah prayed AS he responded to the king. His further writings indicate that he prayed while working and while engaging with the people. He quite literally prayed while he went about the things of his day. In seeking God all day, Nehemiah also lived out a daily awareness of God’s presence in his life.
3. Dependence. ‘Praying continually’ also means setting aside specific and regular time to pour out our soul to God about specific and intimate things, including confession of sin, crying out for help when afraid or burdened, admitting full dependence on Him, and asking God to supply our every need.
Hannah says 1 Samuel 1:15, that she was ‘pouring out her soul to the LORD’, quite literally dumping out all her concerns before God in a quiet posture all by herself. Being deeply troubled, she prayed… and God heard.
Jesus Himself in the garden of Gethsemane poured out His soul to the LORD (John 17), knowing full well what He had to go through to be obedient to His Father… obedient unto death… a sacrifice to be made for the sins of the whole world, made effective for all who would believe in Him. In this most challenging hour, Jesus depended on God, who responded and strengthened Him.
King David, when afraid, prayed to God these simple words in the midst of Psalm 56, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.”
We’ve all been afraid, and we all will face fears ahead. It is good to know that even when we are at the end of ourselves in fear, God is there to meet us. When we have nothing left to give and nothing left to go on, God steps in and meets us in a miraculous way that we wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. And the connecting point is leaning on God through prayer.
And, as the prophet Daniel points out in detail in Daniel 9, we are a people (yes, all of us), who have “sinned and done wrong. We have turned away from your (God’s) commands and laws.” Daniel was pleading with God to forgive because He is “merciful and forgiving” and that He would “hear and act” on behalf of who God says He is to His people and because of His promises extended to them.
It is good to know that forgiveness is available to anyone who calls on the Name of the Lord and asks for forgiveness in Jesus’ Name. Daniel knew this in part. We know it in full. Prayer gives us access to God’s throne room in the Name of Jesus and full forgiveness through Him. When washed in His blood, He also renews us with His Spirit. Then we can live out each day in prayerful dependence on Him with His Spirit power in us!
4. Adoration. ‘Praying continually’ means to give praise and glory to God in all things.
Just look up at the sky. Or observe an evening sunset. King David says in Psalm 19, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” Or how amazing is a mountain range, or a field of sunflowers, or thunderous ocean breakers, or whatever you are beholding in God’s creation. How about praise Him for all His goodness – and then especially for the reconciliation He extends to us in Christ Jesus that we would even recognize His hand in creation! Look around at what He has made and lift up praise and glory to Him, the King of kings, and Lord over all creation.
Everywhere we look, we can be motivated to praise God from who all blessings flow. God loves to hear from us!
In simplicity, just look right before your eyes each morning… praise and thank God for food…toast or cereal (from field grains), fruit and coffee (from trees) and for all the people He created to make food production possible — all this came about because of God’s grace in giving sunshine and rain!
“Praise the Lord oh my soul, and all that is within me praise His holy Name.” Psalm 103
“Praise the LORD, oh my soul, Oh LORD my God You are very great!” Psalm 104
“For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted oh God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth.” Psalm 108
God is the One deserving of all our praise and adoration, the One on whom we must depend, the One whom we must seek each day, and the One on whom our awareness must be fixed. In these ways we can pray continually.
This God, and He alone, is the One who receives our prayers, into His very throne room, as sweet incense before Him…. continually.
And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.Revelation 5:8