How To Pray Without Ceasing
"Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Do we do anything without stopping? We eat until we are full, we run and slow into a walk, we lay down, we sleep, then we wake up. But Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. The perfectionist in me screams, "Come on Paul, how can I pray if I'm ASLEEP?" Even when we are sleeping, our body continues to work. Our heart keeps beating and our lungs keep breathing. Yes, we take a moment to inhale, and then we pause to exhale. There is a split second when we are not actively taking in breath, but our body is still regularly, unceasingly, breathing. The word “unceasing” isn't a solid line but a regular pulse. "Unceasing" means uninterruptedly, without omission. Our bodies cannot exist very long without taking a breath. Our breath is regular and unceasing.
But even at the end of our days, we will cease to breathe the air of this earth. We will stop breathing. But our prayers will not cease. They will transform from incense before God into bodily presence before the living Lord. Our prayers do not cease because God does not cease. He is the continuing thread of our breathing bodies throughout our everlasting existence.
As long as we are on this side of heaven, we will pray unceasingly. Prayer, or a lack of prayer, must not induce guilt. If one is born again into the new body of Christ, a life without prayer is a life without breath. Can we forget to breathe? No. The body needs breath, as the life of Christ needs prayer. It is not a duty, it is an inherent response to the life breathed into us. Prayer is as instinctive to the Christian life as a song to the birds and rain to the clouds. Prayer is our built-in reply to pain and praises. The more we go to the Lord, the more natural it will become!
A Breathing Exercise
Take a moment to inhale deeply. Put one hand on your chest, and one hand on your stomach. Close your mouth, and inhale through your nose, expanding your ribcage, filling your body, pushing your hands with your breath, letting the oxygen fill every space.
Now let it go.
Keep the deep breaths.
This time, imagine Jesus breathing. Jesus, the body full of God. Jesus, wrapped in flesh and blood, breathing the same air as you.
The same Jesus who breathed life into your newborn body.
The same Jesus who breathes His very Spirit on you upon salvation.
The same Jesus who is the head of the body of believers around the world; the saints inhaling life and exhaling prayers, rhythmically, together.
Let the simple act of breathing become practice in the presence of God. He is nearer to you than the breath in your lungs. As long as we breathe, we do not cease to pray. As Ann Voskamp says, “peace is a belief that exhales.”
May God bless you with presence and peace today.