The Holy Spirit led Paul to write to the believers in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 5:17), saying after “Rejoice always,” “Pray without ceasing.” I’m not any kind of Bible scholar, but I don’t think these statements are suggestions. They are obviously imperatives—commands.
I can at least vaguely understand how I might be able to rejoice all the time, but pray all the time? Impossible! – At least as I had always understood it. I had a living to make, a house to keep up, and a husband and children to care for. I couldn’t be kneeling down, bowing my head, or whatever requirements there might be to be praying all the time.
Surely preachers and Sunday School teachers had tried to teach me better for years, but I never quite got the message. Until…until, as it so often happens, a circumstance, an occasion or an event comes along to make things clear.
My daughter died in a vehicle accident. I was devastated and I cried out,
“My child, my daughter, my first-born, my, my, my!”
God spoke to me, not just a feeling inside, but translated to me in words inaudible to anyone else, “What’s this my business? I let you in on the fun of placing this little person on earth, but she never belonged to you. She was mine from the beginning because I was her creator and then she was mine multiplied over when she accepted my son Jesus as her Savior and Lord. You had a great 33-year loan but I didn’t have to ask your permission to bring her home to me.”
His words were stern but not harsh. He was taking part in the dialogue of prayer. Dialogue? Yes! Without intention or even recognizing what I was doing, I had engaged in true prayer.
His words were stern but not harsh
That prayer is a dialogue rather than some kind of monologue from me was the first lesson I learned. The second was perhaps even more wonderful. Prayer needn’t be an event with boundaries of time or place, but more of a state of being. It should be an ongoing, unceasing state of communication. At any moment I can reach out to my Dearest Abba Father and whisper, “I love you,” “I need you, please help me,” “I can’t understand this, would you please instruct your Holy Spirit inside me to teach me,” and most powerfully, “I don’t know how to pray right now. Please let your Holy Spirit know my heart and speak for me.
I guess these things are from my side again but with an open door for God to speak to me, sometimes in answers to what I have said, but often without my beginning any dialogue. Perhaps I can be looking in a mirror, frowning at what seems to be an obvious flaw or sign of aging to me, and I hear His gentle voice saying, “You are just as I made you and I love you just the way you are.” To my best-intentioned but still mid-excellent singing, “Trust me, one day you’ll do better up here.” At some time when I’ve really tried to do something which has been unnoticed by all the humans around me, simple words of encouragement: “Good job!” At a season of personal despair: “I cherish you.”
“I cherish you.”
Sometimes I forget the prayer lessons I’ve learned an unwittingly go back to those earlier misguided days, but it only takes a moment for His gentle reminder that our prayer time together is real and unceasing.
Do I pray for God’s guidance? Of course, I do, and sometimes I even do so in the same way I formerly thought was the only way to pray—a set-aside time either early in the morning or the last thing at night looking forward to the next day—asking His direction and blessing on that time to come. I’m not trying to disparage this kind of action, but even asking for direction, I find that I now am more likely to follow the immediate and constant contact that has been given to me.
Whenever big decisions or events are imminent, I say, “Go before me, Lord, I always want to be following you. Open doors, but just as importantly, close doors before me. I would even prefer that you slam them to make your will clear to me. Help me remember that I want to follow only your will. That I would not be led off in trying to follow my own when I know that is hardly wise.”
Sometimes this prayer for guidance can even be for something simple or minor, yet remembering that the Father wants to hear about the little things of my life, too. My husband thinks my prayers can be kind of silly, but God and I don’t think so. “Lord, I just lost one of the lovely blue earrings that I’m so fond of. If it’s your will, please lead me to it.” However much some bystanders might scoff, the number of times He has graciously answered such prayers is astounding.
Sometimes this prayer for guidance can even be for something simple or minor, yet remembering that the Father wants to hear about the little things of my life, too.
Praying without ceasing covers all areas of communication with God: guidance, protection, healing, provision, deliverance and intervention. Yet guidance actually covers them all and I have been so gifted to have this privilege of communication with the master and creator of the universe, my Dearest Abba Father.
-By Trudy Graham