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Eternity 51 - Pray Without Ceasing!
1 Thessalonians 5:17 ASV (17) pray without ceasing;
What does it mean to "pray without ceasing"? Surely we cannot pray when in the middle of work demanding all our concentration?
Yes and no, certainly we cannot pray with words or be on our knees or recite a prayer from a liturgy while working but we can pray in another way - in a quiet continuous was with the deepest part of our being. Because such prayer operates in parallel with ordinary life it does not require the Christian to head off to a monastery. Rather it can be there amidst busy days of ministry or fixing a duplicator or typing on a computer.
Jesus would not be much use to us of we had to drop everything to know His presence. Rather Jesus is Immanuel - God with us, right there in the midst of greasy engines and noisy children. Jesus turns up in prisons, out in fields, on boats at sea, and all sorts on non-churchy places. Jesus is with us all the time and we can be aware of Him all the time and praying, in our spirits to Him, all the time.
Prayer is a strange thing, it involves almost a separate part of our being. Paul says this is especially so with the gift of tongues where the spirit and the understanding are separated: "1 Corinthians 14:14-15 ASV (14) For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. (15) What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also." Here the mind and the understanding are separate from the act of praying. (Now I am not saying we have to be always speaking in tongues but just using this as an illustration.)
The "bit of us" that prays can operate separately from the "bit of us" that thinks. Its almost as if we can pray "subsconsciously" or "unconsciously". And Paul talks of the Spirit praying through us "with groanings too deep for words" (Romans 8:26). So there is a part of us, that is non-verbal and non-cognitive that can pray very deeply indeed. This is the realm of the spirit and of the inner man.
This "inner" prayer may involve pictures, emotions,
groaning, tongues or a number of other modes of prayer. Believers down the
centuries have given this kind of non-verbal, non-cognitive prayer various
names accoording to how they experience it - contemplation, tongues, arrow
prayers, darts of love, being in the Spirit, and so on - and the names are
as varied as the practices. The point is that prayer can be a non-verbal,
non-cognitive activity operating in parallel with our other activities and
imbuing them with the love of Jesus.
This kind of praying is not the spiritual warfare, requesting or commanding kind of prayer, its more relational - like the kind of prayer that cries out 'Abba, Father". And neither is it a "superior" kind of prayer because it is "beyond words". Its the ordinary quiet communion of God and the believer, the souls longing for God and being filled with God.
We pray both non-verbally and verbally. We pray with the understanding and "in the spirit". The Christian life is not one or the other. Furthermore it is definitely not bizarre and "super-spiritual" or the stuff of strange leadings and weird instructions. Rather it fills the mind with the presence of God so that it becomes calm, wise, settled and discerning and has a great clarity about it - so the person thinks better as a result.
If you have a "strange haze" that comes over your mind and blots out rational thinking and generates strange "spiritual impulses" - then you are under demonic deception.
God operates with great clarity, never in a fog or haze and always respects the full will and person of the Christian. The true presence of God makes the Christian wise like Daniel or Joseph or Jesus so that people wil say "where did He get this wisdom from" (Matthew 13:54).
While praying in the Spirit your mind should become as clear as crystal and as sharp and logical and wise as a human mind can be.
God is the imparter of wisdom not of confusion. Praying in this
way, in continuous deep fellowship with God in the Spirit, is thus not dangerously
subjective or anti-intellectual or open to deception. Its the exact opposite,
it endows all of life with love and clarity and wisdom and truth.
Well then how do we "do it"?
No instructions are given in the Bible but the common testimony of believers is that we simply start talking to God and noticing His presence and practising His being with us. Some people place a chair in the room to remind them that God is always present.
For me it started very early in my Christian life along with the firm belief that God was always with me. I am very talkative so talking to God continually was no problem!
Gradually your spirit sensitises and becomes aware of God's Spirit and the movements of God. Pray for your "spiritual eyes and ears to be opened". Pray also that God will fill you with the Spirit and that the Spirit will pray through you - because interceding is part of His work.
One "technique" that was very helpful was the Campus Crusade practice of "spiritual breathing" or quickly confessing sin on the "out breath" and then asking forgiveness and filling on the "in breath", there is nothing magical about it but it helped me be diligent about keeping short accounts with God and asking for the filling of the Spirit.
As implied earlier this kind of prayer can go "off the rails'" if we get insecure and always want leadings and directions from God and certain feelings or actions to happen to reassure us that He is still there. Satan can uses our anxiety against us to get us to follow will-o-the-wisps. But don't be put off from the good and true by the fact that there is a bad and false imitation!
Press on and pray that you will be filled with all wisdom and
discernment in your praying. Once you get the hang of it your days will be
enriched by the loving Presence of God and you will wonder how you ever lived
any other way. Just start now, and persist for a month or so.
Prayer: Dear Lord teach me to live in Your presence and to pray continually in the Spirit. Amen.
John Edmiston (email@example.com)
Asian Internet Bible Institute