Praying without Ceasing
Prayer is my only safe place.
Not that long ago I had a giant misunderstanding that lead to a rift of relationship with someone I dearly love. I presumed that I understood what this person was feeling and unfortunately, I took actions that brought a wound into the heart of my friend. Misunderstanding, pain, and a breakdown of our relationship ensued. To my utter dismay, the door for conversation and making amends was slammed shut. Have you ever been there? Seeking to love and bless someone but the actions you take end up wounding and hurting that one instead?
Not only had I wounded this one but now my heart was also wounded. I had no peace, and there was no solution or reconciliation to be found. All I could do was pray. I went to bed mourning and pouring out my heart to Jesus, and I woke up still in the conversation with Him. This ongoing conversation continued day after day and week after week. My heart was breaking at the prospect of losing the nearness of this relationship. All the activities of my day were undergirded with this one continual conversation with Jesus. My furtive plea went something like this, “Jesus, please break in, move upon this one’s heart. Show me how to knock on that closed door; what can I do to turn this around?” His response went something like, “Diane, trust Me.” My response back, “I’m trying, Lord.”
It didn’t matter what I did each day. I could be working or doing domestic duties at home or driving to and from appointments. I could be having coffee with a friend or taking a walk. In all my comings and goings this conversation carried on in the background. It’s this conversation that enabled me to endure the pain of the relational breakdown. Reflecting back, I’m utterly convinced that my conversation with Jesus is what brought our wounded relationship to a tipping point and then forward into the light, where conversation, forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation broke forth.
In hindsight, I see I was actually loving myself as well as the one I’d wounded by staying in the conversation with Jesus. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:15–18:
Always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
There’s nothing like pain or crisis to motivate me to pray without ceasing. My most fervent times of consistent prayer happen when difficulty or pressure is bearing down upon me for a prolonged period of time. The pressure that crushes and doesn’t lift can only be born through prayer. I see through the Psalms that David bore up under the soul-crushing circumstances of his life by staying in the dialogue. The biblical template seems to be: pour out your lament and stay in the dialogue with the Lord. It’s the dialogue which reminds me of who God is and how we (God and I) love each other. It’s this remembering that renews my hope and courage in spite of my circumstances.
And then there’s Jesus Himself. He modeled rejoicing always, praying without ceasing, and giving thanks in everything. The dialogue anchored Him in the present moment and strengthened Him for the tomorrow. It’s through prayer without ceasing that He was able to be the obedient Son who went all the way to the cross and the grave.
But is difficulty the only thing that can motivate us to stay in the conversation with Jesus? Is it possible that the person of Jesus is enough to capture us and hold our attention in an ongoing conversation? King David proclaims in Psalm 34:8, “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who trusts in Him.” Paul proclaims in Ephesians 3 that it’s knowing this vast love of Christ that strengthens us and fills our hearts with faith. It seems that for both King David and the apostle Paul, their attention was held and captured by the magnificent God. Praise the Lord that David’s and Paul’s journey of friendship and dialogue with God is chronicled for our good. Are we not on the same journey? Is our quest not the same?
Our cry is, “Open the eyes of our heart like you did for David, like you did for Paul. Surely You are the same God today, and You love us as much as you loved these men. How can we see what they saw, unless you help us!” We can draw the conclusion that He wants to help us and that we can posture our hearts to be helped by Him through engaging in the continual dialogue. It’s the continual conversation that will reveal His personality, wisdom, and beauty to us like it was revealed to David and Paul. This is our very life and our joy to know Him and understand His personality and the way He thinks and feels.
And it’s His thoughts and His feeling that shape our own. We find our true selves as we come to know who Jesus is. As John Calvin said, “Knowing yourself begins with knowing God.” A big way that we get to know God is through His Word. Why is His Word so key? God’s Word is His bond, and this means He always speaks what is true. Because of this reality, we can depend upon all that He says. We never have to fear that God is having a bad day or will change His mind about something He has already declared to us through His Word. His Word is always true. This is why we enjoy talking with Him; because He’s always the same, He never changes or speaks untruths. This is why we can set down the anchor of our confidence upon Him, because He and His word are one and the same.
Andrew Murray said, “If the spiritual life be healthy, under the full power of the Spirit, praying without ceasing will be natural.” Knowing God through His Word, holding Him to His Word, and holding ourselves to alignment with His Word are what develop a healthy and vibrant spiritual life. Conversations can be strained and pained when we are talking with one another through the backdrop of our own brokenness. But who doesn’t want to stay in a continual conversation with a God whose word is His bond? We all desire to converse with this God, this One who is all truth and all love and never changes. Jesus is this One who knows us the best and loves us the most, even more than we know or love ourselves. Who are we that God is after our hearts? Who are we that He will allow us to possess His heart as we engage in the practice of prayer without ceasing?
What motivates you to want to pray without ceasing?
Want to know more of God’s love and desire for an ever-deeper relationship with you? We recommend Loved: When the One Who Knows You the Best Loves You the Most, by IHOPKC author Daniel Hoogteijling. Be freed to stop striving and to live with courage— energized and satisfied in His love and ready to walk out the joyful gospel. Get your copy today at our Forerunner Bookstore.