God put it on my heart to share a journey He’s been guiding me through concerning prayer. He gave me Thessalonians 5:17 quite some time ago, “Pray without ceasing.” A wise women I know once told me, “You do need your quiet time each day with the Lord. But He’s with you all 24 hours of each day. How rude to ignore Him most of that time.” But what exactly does “praying without ceasing” mean?”
For me, it’s come to mean that I must be in constant acknowledgment of His presence. Still, that’s hard to do consistently, especially when things are going well. When our daughter starting questioning God’s existence, praying without ceasing seemed a lot easier to do. Then last June, when things came to head between us and she left home, every breath I drew, every thought I had, became a prayer sent up on her behalf. I couldn’t do much except pray when I was awake, and I couldn’t sleep at night for praying. Lots of praying, not much peace.
Soon after this, God told me to take a strip of linen and tie it around my left wrist, and to leave it there until further notice. Okay. I didn’t understand the purpose, but do I really have to understand to obey? I tied it on and continued to pray.
Two weeks later, my husband was studying to speak at church on Ephesians 6:18–“With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit.” This was a verse close to his heart, as he had been praying without ceasing, too. But he wondered, why “prayer AND petition?” Those words are synonyms in English, but they must both be there for a reason. He looked up the original words in the Greek. The word translated “prayer” was “ask”, just as you might expect. But the word translated “petition” meant “with hands bound”. Weird. But then he put his hands together, as if he were bound. What a picture of complete helplessness, pleading for help, begging for mercy, unable to do anything for oneself. I can’t actually bind my hands together every day, but this symbol God gave me reminds me that my petition is always before the throne of the Almighty. Petition without ceasing.
But the journey didn’t end there: I still had more to learn. Soon after this, God told me to take a day off, leave home, and spend a day in prayer. I decided to spend at least a part of that day walking on the greenway. As I drove to the parking area at the entrance to the greenway, I prayed about what I should pray about while I walked. I know, that’s weird, but I’m a weird person. Anyway, God told me, “Why don’t you just be quiet and listen for while.”
That’s when I realized that I’d been really one-sided in the praying without ceasing thing. I’d been asking, pleading, crying out, thanking Him for the answer I know is coming; getting angry, yelling, asking forgiveness for getting angry and yelling; making helpful suggestions as to a course of action He could take. Not a lot of listening going on. So, for almost three hours, I walked the greenway and listened as God spoke peace and rest into my soul. If I started to talk about anything other than praise to Him, He would gently say, “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10. Or, “My soul waits in silence for God alone, for my hope is from Him.” Psalm 62:5. Or, “Let all the earth keep silence before Him,” Habakkuk 2:20.
I know I still have a lot to learn about what it means to pray without ceasing. But now at least I try to keep a balance between talking and listening!
Father, teach us to pray, to pray without ceasing; to constantly acknowledge your presence in our lives; to listen as much as we speak.