Pray without Ceasing

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” (Ephesians 6:18)

It is obvious that Paul’s command to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) is to be understood metaphorically (after all, we do have to sleep and work, as well as pray), but it is also to be taken seriously.

Even during waking hours, of course, the attitude of unceasing general prayer is not meant to supersede special periods of concentrated prayer. Jesus spoke thus of the importance of intense private prayer: “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret” (Matthew 6:6). Christ Himself has set an example: “In the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35).

There is also an important role for group prayer meetings. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed” (James 5:16). “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 18:19).

The words of our text, however, conclude the great passage on the armor of the Christian as he or she engages in daily combat with the wicked one. They imply not a continual verbalized prayer but a continual attitude of prayer and watchfulness whereby it becomes easy and natural to breathe a short (but sincere) prayer “in the Spirit” whenever a need appears (e.g., a special need for strength or guidance in a situation, or intercession for someone else). Thus, whether at work or at rest, we can—as Paul exhorts—“continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2). HMM

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