Pray Without Ceasing
*originally published in the Spring 2020 edition of Be Still Magazine, by The Daily Grace Co.
I have a bad habit. I bet you do too. I call it internet therapy. When I’m stressed or covered in doubt, I often find myself running to the internet for answers. If I have a physical discomfort, WebMd is my go-to. When I’m feeling desperate for a change in my work life, CareerBuilder and LinkedIn become my sites of choice. When I just need a distraction from doing the hard work of parenting, or being faithful in the job that has become burdensome, you can find me scrolling through Instagram and Facebook with fervor.
If you’ve ever done the same, you know that this practice is anything but life-giving. In fact, when I run to these “comforts”, these distractions, these idols (because let’s face it, that’s what they really are), I’m left with a sense of emptiness. I’m still stressed, frustrated, and anxious. I have no real answers for the questions on my mind and heart because truth is not found in these places. It is only found in the Presence of Jesus.
Thankfully, Jesus, in His infinite grace and goodness beckons us to come to Him instead. He says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).
So how do we do this? How do we take His yoke upon us and learn from Him?
One of the ways that Jesus has been showing me how to learn from Him lately is to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Growing up in church and attending a Christian school I heard this admonition many times. And just about every time, it was followed with feelings of anxiety. My mind would race to thoughts like, “How can I possibly pray without ever stopping?” “Does that mean I can’t think about anything else?” I would always conclude that it couldn’t possibly mean that I should literally never stop praying, because that’s impossible. Unfortunately, at my young age, I kind of just left the thought there, and never searched for a conclusion about what Paul was really telling the Thessalonians to do.
In His grace, God has given me greater understanding of this sometimes confusing bit of Scripture. In a sermon given on March 10, 1872, C.H. Spurgeon says, “While your hands are busy with the world, let your hearts still talk with God.” When doubts creep in, when the day gets hectic, we can still make brief requests to our Father. When victories come, we can offer up a breath of thanksgiving. We are always welcome in His Presence. We don’t need to sit in a quiet room, with eyes closed and hands folded to talk to our Father. He is always available to us.
As a working mom of young kids, I sometimes find it difficult to set aside extended quiet times to pray. I am usually able to spend some time in prayer in the morning before the kids get up, but if you have small kids, you know that those moments often get interrupted. In this season of my life I have found myself feeling worn and tired when I miss those quiet moments of prayer. I spent so much time feeling defeated by this reality, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I have the opportunity to be in the practice of prayer. When thoughts of inadequacy creep in, I can simply ask Jesus to give me His thoughts. When a moment goes better than expected, I can praise God for giving me the ability to do my work well. These don’t need to be long prayers. They can be a sentence, or even a word. The length of the prayer, and the structure of the sentence are not what is important. What’s important is the posture of our hearts. When we are in the practice of prayer, we are better able to hear from our Father. Our hearts are more receptive to his Word. When we spend time with Jesus, we learn about his character. The more time we spend with Him, the more we know Him, the more we become like Him.
I’m going to continue to make quiet time alone with Jesus a priority, but it is such a blessing to know that I can go to Him at any time. As I’ve made praying without ceasing a priority throughout my day, I’ve found that my automatic thoughts have changed, my attitude toward stressful situations has changed, and my ability to faithfully do what He has called me to has increased. When we acknowledge our need, Jesus is quick to provide. Instagram can make no such claim.