Praying Without Ceasing

Pray without ceasing.
1 Thessalonians 5:17
What kind of statement is this? Doesn't it seem unreasonable to you? Is it a command, advice or a recommendation? How could Paul have been keeping this himself as he spoke the words of the epistle that contains these words? Yet, here they are. Was he being over-expressive or poetic? Couldn't he have better said, "Pray as much as you can." or "Pray whenever you have an opportunity."? We could have possibly attained to this. He didn't say it in any other way, however, and he meant what he said. "Oh," you say, rather dismally. Were you hoping I was going to explain it away?

We'll find understanding, and hence, progress towards its fulfillment, in looking at what prayer is.

Defining Prayer
4Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. 5Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. 6Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 9Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.    
Philippians 4:4-9
This passage sheds a lot of light on the issue. First, we need to rearrange our definition. We see here that prayer isn't supplication. To supplicate is to request. Asking for things. We often envision prayer as being this. It is not. This passage lists these as two separate things. Next we see it isn't thanksgiving, for this is likewise separate from prayer in this passage. Now I have you really stumped, huh? We are to pray always, we are to make requests and give thanks and rejoice. What's more, we are to rejoice on the one hand and live in moderation on the other. Moderation means refraining ourselves. Not giving our flesh every thing it craves. How can we likewise be so cheery as to rejoice all the time, while living on a continual kind of diet, as it were? Our source of life and our heart's abode is brought into focus. This helps define prayer. We know we're to pray always and supplicate and rejoice and give thanks. This means that to do these other things must be included in prayer as part of a larger meaning. Supplication is prayer. Rejoicing is prayer. Thanksgiving is prayer, but you can't say supplication is rejoicing or that rejoicing is thanksgiving. We have some direction now as to a definition of prayer. Looking at that rejoicing and moderation, we go back to the source of life and abiding.
  Jesus said:

  5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
    John 15:5

Remember that fruit is the natural outcome of life. It comes from the supplier of life. This explains how, in our rejoicing, we're living in moderation. A rejoicing heart is part of the fruit (Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:9). Some pruning of the flesh enables the fruit of the Spirit to blossom forth.

Note: VERY IMPORTANT - it doesn't say or show we gain the fruit of the Spirit by living as Stoics. This is a form of religion that looks noble to the fleshly mind, but has no source of life. The warning to moderation is a warning against overindulging the flesh.

I would say we now have enough elements to venture forth a definition for prayer. A prayer which can realistically be done without ceasing. Prayer is a communion with God. A fellowship in which we share everything with Him. Our hopes, our joys, our fears, our love. We're called to walk through life holding His hand, as it were, like a little child walking hand in hand with his father as the child excitedly goes through the fair, or maybe as a little child being carried by his father through the fair. Some things may scare him at the fair, but if he buries his face in his father's shoulder, he finds comfort. The child knows his father is ever with him and can take care of him. This unity in going together is abiding together. Now if our religion was make believe, this life of fellowship and the Spirit's abiding presence, could never flow in us, but our God is indeed true. We do have a Father who will carry, comfort and rejoice with us. His delightful presence is ever powerfully with us. Those who know Him have no doubt of this. You can't touch life and wonder what you're in contact with.

A Picture of Life in Action
Looking back at our passage, we see "Be careful for nothing;". This is also translated as, "be anxious for nothing;". The passage goes on to tell us, "and the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Here is that real abiding life you encounter in this constant communion with God. Our fears and worries will disappear in this constant union and abiding with God.

We have seen what prayer is, but how does it come down to actual living experience? We get caught in the things surrounding us. This is where our moderation problem spins out of control. We forget to keep holding the Father's hand, letting it slip out of ours, and run off to view the things around us at the fair. We get lost in the crowds, suddenly finding our fears overrun us, as we look for the Father and can't see Him. We cry to Him and suddenly find His face looking down at us. He sweeps us up in His arms, and we're secure once again. If we never let go of His hand, we wouldn't be overcome by the flesh. We find that continued strength as we make sure to hold His hand. His life and strength flow through us and into us in a way that even this simple illustration can't properly demonstrate. This is because the illustration relies on flesh experiences, but the strength and communion actually takes place in our spirits. Our spirit is one with His in the body of Christ - "through Christ Jesus" from this passage.

What to Think On
This leads us to our final observations of this passage. I consider this very powerful:

"8Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 9Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you."
Philippians 4:8-9

We have instructions to help us keep in moderation and to see we don't run off at the fair. The things in this world, our daily affairs, interactions with others, events and fears, capture our whole attention. We're told what to let occupy our attention. The list is wonderfully positive but sometimes, to help us realize what sort of things the list refers to, we need to see what the positive things are the opposite of.

Starting with "true" we have "false". This would include watching documentaries that attack the Word of God such as those promoting evolution or questioning the reality of the biblical miracles. These drive a wedge in our communion with God. His fellowship goes, His peace and strength also go. We need to actively grab hold of the "true" things and powerfully shove away those "false".

Next we have "honest". The opposite is easy, "dishonest". What's the difference between "honest" and "true" ? "True" speaks of fact. "Honest" speaks of intention. What's the motive? Is the intent good even though the action might be slightly misled. The dishonest thing to avoid would hit propaganda. We are constantly fed news intended to corrupt our beliefs by being given false impressions. Choose news sources that don't have a brainwashing "agenda" to accomplish.
Now we find "just". The opposite is "unjust". No, I don't think I'm speaking to idiots. Of course you knew the opposite, but I must list it. "Unjust" is a corruption of justice. I encounter people who get consumed with political corruptions. These fill them with a life of fear and terror. We have always been surrounded by political corruption, back to the time this Bible passage was written under Roman rule. Paul didn't live his life mulling over Roman injustices. He looked to the Author and Finisher of our salvation. In Him we find "just". Don't always dream of a just government. We're told to "Pray for peace" (1 Timothy 2:1,2), but a just government won't exist on this world until Christ returns.

"Pure" and its opposite is "impure". Impure things often have pure things in them, but mixed with bad. It's like enjoying an ice cream cone and finding the chunk in the ice cream isn't butter brickle, but a clump of dirt. That would certainly ruin the ice cream! Now what about the movies you watch? Are they like that ice cream cone? Is there evil, like obscenities, mixed in with the movie? If so, this is the impure sort of thing to avoid that pulls us out of communion with God.

Now we see "lovely". Its opposite is "ugly". If our heart delights in anything ugly, this grieves the Spirit of our heavenly Father. This quickly cuts off communion. The crudities of this world should be quickly shunned. I saw a Christian who had an ashtray that had a rubber figurine of a dog positioned to urinate into the ashtray. This is crude in its suggestion. This sort of delight separates us from our Father.

Good Report
"Good report's" opposite is that of a "bad reputation". What's the reputation of the thing you get involved with? If I go to where your club meets, will I find things that uplift holiness, or just the opposite? I once worked a service job where I went into one of these community philanthropic lodges. In that lodge was a bar and on the bulletin board was a sexually explicit and vulgar cartoon. The "club" may proclaim its community contributions, but will a little closer look reveal such crudities?

Virtue & Praise
"Virtue" and "praise" go together for an overall flavor. Their opposites are things smacking of "ungodliness" or "condemnation". Would you be willing to shine a light on them and examine them? If you're afraid the light would reveal something, you can know you're holding on to something you shouldn't.

Think on these things
We're called to "think on these things". The meditation of our heart and the pursuit of the wonderful things, listed prior, will keep our communion with God intact.

Peace of God & God of Peace
Paul finishes this up saying he has so lived, and continues to live. From personal experience, he could declare it works. He says, "follow my words and my actions". Why does he so finish it here? Look at that blessed conclusion, "and the God of peace shall be with you". Prior to the list he said, "peace of God", but he switches the order to "God of peace". This is important, in fact, the crux of the matter. We easily look at "peace" as a goal and object in and of itself. A possession, like a toy, if you would. What God wants, isn't our hearts full of some possession or possessions, but Him. It's not peace, per se, we get, but God in whom is peace. "Pray without ceasing." Communion that abides in the presence of God. This isn't an ideal of labor, but a joy of fellowship.

May the "peace of God" and the "God of peace" be with you.


In the arms of my Father,
I go, embraced by His love.
Joy so unspeakable,
To know His care, at my side, from above.

I need not fear,
Though terrors, they seem to lurk.
To know He cares,
I can trust, my preservation, He'll work.

'Never worry!' He says,
For my fears had me looking too lean.
'Never worry?' I say,
As I realize what a fool I had been.

My fears, never ending,
Kept my faith, down and cold.
When I realized, His love unending,
Put to shame those fears so bold.

Now I frolic in His presence,
Knowing He's always by my side.
Trusting in His lovingkindness,
Embraced in His arms so wide.

Please Rate this Page
1 - Poor
5 - Excellent


3 + 4 =
(to prove you're a real human, not a spammer)

Free to Copy under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND3.0 License by Darrell Farkas
All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible

Return To Library