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-- © GodSpeak International 1998 --
-- Do not republish without written permission from <copyright@godspeak.org> --

Author: Richard Lang
Editors: Teresa Seputis, Al Vesper

Prayer-School Course


Lesson Six

Pray Without Ceasing

As we enter into our sixth week of study, we will be considering the topic of praying without ceasing. This brings us into an aspect of prayer that also has to do with asking, knocking and seeking. Each of these various aspects of prayer involve a continual asking, a continual knocking and a continual seeking.


In 1st Thes. 5:17 - KJ, we are given the exhortation to Pray without ceasing. As you look at this admonition, your first thought is that you cannot carry out this command. You just can't do it. There seems to be no way that you can even come close to fulfilling such a high calling. To pray without ceasing seems to be beyond human endeavor. It just cannot be done.

Glancing back at verse 16, you find no hope for it only adds to the impossibility of your quest by telling you, Rejoice always! You cannot conceive of any possible way to pray without ceasing, while at the same time you are rejoicing always. Our minds tell us that it simply cannot be done. As for verse 18, it only compounds the impossibility by giving to you the added burden to, give thanks in all circumstances. If this is not enough, it concludes by telling you that this is God's will for your life. In other words, God's will is that you pray without ceasing as you rejoice always, while you give thanks in all circumstances. Each of these in their own way goes beyond your physical ability to do so; they go beyond human endurance. Nevertheless, these commands of the Lord are there.

If your experience has been anything like mine, then you know that there was a day when it took all your ability to pray for five minutes, and even then you had to toss in a prayer that you had memorized, such as the Lord's prayer. Holly and I even added the Apostle's Creed and the 23rd Psalm to our prayer time. Later, you may have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the ability to speak in tongues. Using tongues may have doubled your prayer life to all of ten minutes worth of "prayer without ceasing."

Then, the Pastor would ask you to pray in public, and your mouth would dry up and balls of cotton would take the place of your tongue - after all - everyone in church prayed out loud - didn't they? Or the guy on television would pray a prayer that made it seem as though God himself had spoken it.

Over the years, Holly and I have developed some skills in our ability to pray, and thankfully we have gained some insight with a degree of success. However, even this falls short of the high exalted exhortation to pray without ceasing.

Just recently, I have come to feel that this admonition has to do with the admonition to walk in the Spirit. Being in the Spirit is without a doubt the only possible way for any of us to fulfill these seemingly impossible requests - especially when we understand that these are in fact God's will for our life. Living in the Spirit, in and of itself, does not come easily, for it too takes practice and endurance.

Verse 19 of this text tells us, Do not quench the Spirit. This is followed by the admonition in verse 20, do not despise prophesying. Now, isn't that interesting? Prayer without ceasing appears to be accomplished by not quenching the Spirit on one hand, and by not despising the gift of prophecy on the other. This combination would appear to be the very essence of prayer: conversation with God.

Let your requests be made known to God. - Phil 4:6b. The Holy Spirit then intercedes with groans too deep. - Rom. 8:27. And the answer flows back to you in a prophetic word from the Lord. Until this instant, I had never seen this relationship between prayer and prophecy. This revelation, for Holly and me, is very insightful.

At the same time, not quenching the Spirit and praying without ceasing has to do with, Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Col. 3:2 - RSV. It is the full realization that we can do nothing of value apart from Jesus.

We are to develop an attitude of having the mind of Christ, of abiding in Him as He abides in us. Abiding in Him means that we are abiding in the Word, because Jesus is the Word. This abiding in Jesus has to do with how we live life. It ought not be a part time thing, spending part of our life in Him, while spending the remainder of the time in the flesh.


In our study we have already considered the following two passages of Scripture more fully, but for now let us just take a peek at a portion of each of these very informative teaching parables.

Praying without ceasing has to do with persistence, and these two parables are filled with persistence, even to the point of importunity. [Note: Sadly the NIV uses the word, boldness, which is in reality a totally different Greek word, and misses the point of the parable entirely.]

Lk. 11:5-8 - RSV. And he said to them, "Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, `Friend, lend me three loaves; 6. for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; 7. and he will answer from within, `Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything'? 8. I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs.

There is a certain aspect of "praying without ceasing" in this parable. In spite of the man's importunity, he presses on, almost relentlessly, until he gets his way.

In the following parable, we meet with one of Jesus' most fascinating persons, a widow woman, who by her persistence wins the day.

Lk. 18:1 - 8 RSV. And he told them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2. He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor regarded man; 3. and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, `Vindicate me against my adversary.' 4. For a while he refused; but afterward he said to himself, `Though I neither fear God nor regard man, 5. yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming.'" 6. And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7. And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8. I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?"

In verse one, Jesus urges that you, "ought always to pray and not lose heart." Again, the idea here is that we need to "always pray." This is a kind of "praying without ceasing." In the parable, the widow woman could have stopped going before the judge. After all, she knew the kind of man that he was. She knew that her chances were very slim at best. She could have lost heart and given up. However, in a somewhat kindly fashion Jesus adds the notion, "not to lose heart."

This is understandable. Your case just may seem to be unobtainable. You may be on the verge of giving up. And Jesus knows that, even as He urges you to "always pray and not to lose heart." Consequently, Jesus is standing with you and urging you not to lose heart, not to despair or even to mope. At the end of the parable Jesus exhorts us not to give up but to "cry unto God day and night."

Later in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus finds that his elite chosen disciples have fallen asleep during a moment of crisis in his own life, "Could you not watch with me this one hour?" He is distressed that they have fallen asleep. Still, he quiets them by saying, "Take your rest." The compassion of Jesus is seen even in this climatic moment. Still even here, we see the human inability to pray for one hour, let alone to pray "without ceasing."

Even Paul urges you, "Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart." - 2nd Cor. 4:1 - RSV.

Endurance: I am very strongly tempted to enter into a study of endurance in the New Testament at this point in our lesson, because this is just one of the many aspects of our being able to pray without ceasing. However, we will have to save this for a further study on some other occasion.


Acts 12:5 - KJ. "Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing by the church unto God for him."

Some Translations speak about earnest prayer. Earnest prayer would be intense, serious and devoted prayer. But, what we see here is group prayer without ceasing, where a number of common ordinary folks come together to blend their efforts into one intense effort.

From our own personal experience we know that folks coming together are able to spend more time in earnest prayer, which during a prayer vigil can go forth for several hours. However, this still does not add up to prayer without ceasing. Since the advent of e-mail earnest, persistent prayer can reach around the world touching thousands and even tens of thousands, and may ultimately become a kind of prayer "without ceasing."


Even Paul, on a number of different occasions indicates that he does pray without ceasing, such as in the four passages below. It is interesting that in his praying, he prays "without ceasing" for the sake of his flock. In Romans, Paul tells them that God is his witness that he is praying for them. Having God as your witness is truly unbeatable.

Rom. 1:9 - RSV. "For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers."

As Paul writes to the Thessalonians, he tells them that he is praying for them "without ceasing." As he does so, it is interesting that Paul is giving thanks to the Lord for these folks. Even more fascinating is that Paul does this twice in the same letter. In one case, he is thankful for their work in the Kingdom. In the second, he is thankful for their having received the word and that the word is bearing fruit in their lives.

1st Thes. 1:2-3 - KJ. "We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; 3. Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father."

1st Thes. 2:13 - KJ. "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received [it] not [as] the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe."

As Paul writes to Timothy, once again he is giving thanks to the Lord for Timothy "without ceasing." Not only does he give thanks without ceasing, but he does so both day and night. To pray without ceasing is one thing. But to pray without ceasing both day and night, that is powerful. As we noted above, Paul calls on God to be his witness. In this verse, he swears - as it were - by his forefathers, that he has a pure conscience. Just the fact that he can claim a pure conscience is insightful.

Psalm One and Joshua One both contain the notion of meditation both day and night, which is in fact a form of prayer. As we have bounced from passage to passage, we have encountered this notion of continual prayer both day and night so that we can see that it is not just a New Testament thing. Both David and Joshua are being admonished by the Lord to meditate both day and night, to pray without ceasing. In looking at these two portions of Scripture, we note with interest that Joshua urges us a number of times "to be strong and of good courage." I have come to believe that prayer without ceasing has a great deal to do with our being strong and of good courage so that we do not lose heart.

I believe also that we have almost accidentally hit upon an aspect of prayer which is vital to our study, and that is the gift of meditation. Christian meditation has to do with persistence as you permit certain passages of God's Word to flow through your lips continually and repeatedly, which in and of itself becomes a form of prayer. A need in your life for healing or in the life of a friend or a relative can be met by meditation upon verses dealing with healing.


For most of us, claiming a pure conscience does not seem possible. Still, I believe that if it is possible for Paul to make such a claim, then it is encouragement for us that we too can come to the place where we may know that we do have a pure conscience, washed clean by the blood of Jesus.

2nd Tim. 1:3 - KJ. "I thank God, whom I serve from [my] forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day."

The lesson that we have learned here is that it is possible for us to pray "without ceasing." If Paul can do it, so can we. If that seems far too elementary, it may well be that praying without ceasing is that simple. In the following verse, Paul tells us something that we have already alluded to.

1st Cor. 14:15-17. "What am I to do? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also."

In this verse, I am amused by Paul's question, "What am I to do?" It is as though the Holy Spirit was anticipating our question concerning prayer, "What are we to do?" Paul's answer is fascinating in that it covers both praying and singing, as well as praying in the mind and in the spirit. This being able to pray with both the mind, "in English," and with the spirit, "in tongues," is a very blessed ability. The gift of tongues is so very precious, that none of us can fully understand just what a priceless gift this is that our Heavenly Father has given to us.

1st Cor. 14:18. "I thank God that I speak in tongues more than you all."

Paul thanks the Lord that he is able to speak in tongues more than any other person. Often times folks take little note of this verse and rush pell-mell into the next verse, 19. "nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue."

Paul is not suggesting that speaking in English is somehow better than speaking in tongues; not at all! He is telling us that he is very thankful that he can in fact speak in tongues. Not only is he thankful but he is bragging that he can speak in tongues more than any other person. This is a very strong statement in favor of tongues, not in opposition to them. Paul is praising the use of tongues and in doing so, he is encouraging us to manifest this very precious gift.

Admittedly, he does go on to tell us that it is far more valuable to speak with our mind when we are in the presence of others. This makes sense. If I were to stand in front of a congregation and speak in tongues it would be meaningless; it would make no sense to anyone. I believe that we all understand this. There is no argument. None of us would speak to a group of people in tongues. There is of course the one exception and that is to follow the speaking of tongues with the gift of interpretation.

However, we do not want to miss the fact that Paul is thanking the Lord for the ability to speak in tongues and to do so more than any other person. This ability is not to be taken lightly. Undoubtedly this ability has much to do with Paul's ability to pray without ceasing.

Another insight to what Paul is telling us is in his ability to also sing in tongues. Here again the ability to either speak or sing enhances our ability to add variety to the various ways in which we can spend time in prayer. Prayer is not meant to be laborious. It is meant to be an experience of communication with the very Creator of the universe, whom you call "Father."


Rom. 12:12 - RSV. "Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer."

In this passage being constant in prayer is joined together with a combination of rejoicing with hope and patience in spite of persecution. [Note: In the dictionary, tribulation is a synonym for persecution, but not for wrath.] In this passage, as well as in the following passages, Paul is not asking us to do anything that he, Paul, is not able to do. If he is able to be constant in prayer, then he fully anticipates that you and I are going to be constant in prayer - nothing more and nothing less.

In the following verse, Paul reminds us again of certain factors which are vital to our understanding of how we are to pray without ceasing.

Eph. 6:18 - RSV. "Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints."

The most important clue on how to pray without ceasing is to be found in this verse. Prayer without ceasing must always be in the Spirit. Whether we pray with the understanding or with tongues makes no difference. Whether we are speaking or singing has nothing to do with our ability to pray. Being in the Spirit is all important to whichever way you pray. Walking in the Spirit and living in the Spirit means that we can succeed in praying at all times without ceasing because it is the Spirit who does the praying, even as we see in the following verse.

Rom. 8:26-27. "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. 27. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."

The moment we acknowledge the impossibility of our being able to pray without ceasing is the very moment that we acknowledge our need of the Holy Spirit. If we could enter into the essence of this entire eighth chapter of Romans, it would be very exciting. All I can do at this moment is to urge you to side with this very anointed Word and meditate on it until the fullness that all of what Jesus has for you flows into you through his Holy Spirit.

This is the answer we have been searching for, that we might pray without ceasing. In the previous verse, perseverance has to do with standing firm in the knowledge that the Holy Spirit is in the midst of your praying at every moment both day and night.

Finally, we have this admonition from Paul.

Col. 4:2 - RSV. "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving."

We conclude our study with this same exhortation, "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving." at all times in the Spirit, who intercedes without ceasing for you.

-- © GodSpeak International 1998 --
-- Do not republish without written permission from <copyright@godspeak.org> --

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