What Does “Pray Without Ceasing” Mean? What Is the Significance of It?
1. What does praying without ceasing refer to?
Regarding the apostle Paul’s words “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), many people interpret them as constantly speaking to God and consider it a very difficult thing to accomplish. In fact, praying without ceasing is not some sort of outward ritual. Instead, it refers to us Christians honoring God as great, relying on and looking to God, communicating with God in our spirits and living before God at all times. Praying without ceasing does not hold to a certain format, nor is it limited to a fixed time or place. Regardless of whether we are free or busy, strong or weak, whether our environment is comfortable or harsh, whether we have difficulties or not, or whether we have made transgressions or not, we can pray to God and communicate with Him. Even when our hands are busy doing something, we can still pray to God in our hearts. Whether we are sitting on the bus, working, or preaching, we can always pray to God, draw close to Him with heart, and quiet our hearts before the Lord. In short, we can practice praying at any time and any place.
2. Why should we pray without ceasing?
1) Praying unceasingly can keep us away from Satan’s temptations, so that we won’t be captured by Satan and lose.
It says in the Bible: “The whole world lies in wickedness” (1 John 5:19). Today’s world is evil and dark and controlled by Satan, which uses all kinds of evil thoughts and views as well as social trends to corrupt us and control our minds and bodies, resulting in us indulging in fleshly and material enjoyment without any time or energy to pursue the truth and practice God’s words. Over time, our hearts drift further and further away from God and we may easily lose God’s salvation. Praying unceasingly, actually, is an effective way for us to stay away from Satan’s temptations, which can also help us gain God’s leadership when temptations befall us and give us the faith and strength to overcome them.
For example, Satan uses such philosophies and views like “A man dies for money; a bird dies for food,” “Some officials are just looking out for number one, not the public,” “Life is just about eating and dressing” to deceive and seduce us, causing us Christians to rush about only for the sake of our lives and flesh, have no interest in reading God’s words, and live every day in a state of emptiness and exhaustion. Satan also benumbs us with the viewpoint “Get drunk today and worry about things tomorrow,” so that we all follow social trends, eating, drinking and seeking pleasure while neglecting the pursuit of truth. Besides, Satan goes to great lengths to create a world of gaiety and splendor to take over our thoughts and minds, luring us into a vicious spiral of squandering money and working desperately to make money, with the result that we all have been reduced to total slaves to money with no sufficient time to worship God. It also uses all sorts of online games, video websites and chatting software to keep us glued to the internet. Also there are various kinds of magazines, newspapers and 24-hour news which have entirely occupied our minds so that we have no way to quiet our hearts reading the Bible, praying, attending meetings and worshiping God. Faced with various seductions and temptations of Satan, without praying and calling on God, we, who simply do not have the strength to overcome sin, are unable to see through Satan’s tricks and will easily be captured by Satan and end up losing God’s salvation. Therefore, we need to constantly pray and call out to God so as to receive protection from Him, stay away from Satan’s harm and gain His salvation.
There was a sister whose living conditions were pretty good but who wanted to earn more money and live a life of riches. So she began to work two jobs, rushing about all day long, and no longer had time to read the Bible or attend gatherings. In the end, she made herself sick through exhaustion, and lived in torment. When she realized her abnormal conditions, she prayed to God about her true thoughts and difficulties, seeking out God’s will and enlightenment. After praying like this many times, she remembered these words of the: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36–37). She then understood—even if one possesses a lot of money and enjoys the best material luxuries, what is the significance of it if one loses one’s own health? Is it worth it? We should be content with having clothing on our backs and food on our tables and spend our spare time coming before God more to equip us with the truth. Only if we gain the truth and life can we live out a meaningful life and eventually be approved by God. After understanding the outcomes of pursuing money and the benefits of pursuing truth and life, the sister chose to let go of money and return before God to worship God. Later, she restored a normal relationship with God and her illnesses gradually disappeared—these were all the results obtained from her constant prayers.
Therefore, living in this world teeming with temptations, if we want to avoid walking the way of worldly people and being captured by Satan, if we want to live under God’s care and protection and gain His salvation, we must pray unceasingly to maintain a normal relationship with God.
2) Praying without ceasing can protect us from living in our corrupt dispositions, so that we can avoid offending God and arousing God’s scorn.
Ever since we were corrupted by Satan, we are filled with all kinds of corrupt dispositions: being arrogant, self-righteous, selfish, mercenary, crooked, deceitful, insidious and malicious. Unable to control these corrupt dispositions, our behaviors are all dominated by them and we cannot live out a true human likeness. Just as Paul said: “For to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Romans 7:18). Although we, we are still living under Satan’s domain controlled by it. If we do not frequently become intimate with God through praying, it is very easy for us to rely on our corrupt dispositions and follow our own ideas to do evil against God.
For example, when we do not get along with someone, or when others do not listen to or obey us, we despise them and contemplate attacking and seeking revenge against them or giving them a hard time. As soon as this thought comes across our mind, we should constantly pray to and call on God, begging Him to protect us from following the evil thoughts. God will then enlighten us: “And why behold you the mote that is in your brother’s eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3). This allows us to realize that what we have revealed is maliciousness and that as Christians, we should have a heart that reveres God and mustn’t do things harmful to others. Coming to this understanding, we are able to approach this matter rationally, develop hatred for ourselves and no longer make irrational demands of others.
Therefore, praying without ceasing can protect us from living in our corrupt dispositions, through which we accept God’s observation and generate a God-fearing heart. We are able to do what we ought to do and say what we ought to say in accordance with God’s words, thus avoiding acting out of line to offend and disgust God.
3) Praying without ceasing can help us grasp our actual state and make constant life progression.
Sometimes when we encounter difficulties, setbacks or failures, we often fall into a state of negativity and weakness whereby we lose our faith to follow God, cannot experience God’s work in a normal condition, our minds become muddied, and we have no life progression for a long time. Even if we rely on deliberate repression—we restrain ourselves in this way or that way—still we cannot free ourselves from those negative or adverse things. At this time, we should frequently come before God in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to grant us faith and strength, through which we are able to find the root of our bad condition, treat difficulties, setbacks and failures appropriately, and come out of our wrong condition. There will then be more positive things within us, our relationship with God will become normal, and we will have more chances to receive. In the end, we will gain a lot and our life will blossom quickly.
On the other hand, when we achieve good results in our work and everything goes well and is comfortable, we should also frequently come before God in prayer to reflect on whether or not we have met God’s requirements. This is because once we reap some results, we are apt to live in a complacent condition, thinking that we are capable, and thus no longer pursue progress. If we frequently make prayers, we will realize that our achievements are all thanks to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and that without God, we can achieve nothing. We then remember these words in Proverbs: “Pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18), and realize that we are being self-satisfied and revealing arrogant disposition, and that if we do not turn ourselves around in good time, we will easily lose the work of the Holy Spirit. At that time, we will conduct ourselves humbly, no longer admire our own ego but willingly give all glory to God. It can be seen from this that through unceasingly praying we can walk out of the wrong state and always live in a normal state to experience God’s work, thus making constant life progression.
Praying without ceasing is of great importance to us Christians. It is the best way for us to communicate with God, gain the Holy Spirit’s work, stay away from Satan’s harm and obtain God’s care and protection. As Christians, each of us should pay attention to it and practice it as a part of our spiritual life. Just as God’s words say: “After God created mankind and granted them spirits, He enjoined them that if they did not call out to Him, then they would not be able to connect with His Spirit and, thus, the ‘satellite television’ from heaven would be impossible to receive on earth. When God is no longer in people’s spirits, there is an empty seat left for other things, and Satan thus seizes the opportunity to get in. When people contact God with their hearts, Satan immediately panics and rushes to escape. Through mankind’s cries, God gives them what they need, but He does not at first ‘reside’ within them. He simply gives them constant aid because of their cries, and from that internal strength people gain hardiness, so that Satan dares not come in to ‘play’ at its will. So, if people continuously connect with God’s Spirit, Satan does not dare to come and cause disruptions. Without Satan’s disruptions, all people’s lives are normal, and God then has the opportunity to work unhindered within them. As such, what God wants to do can be achieved through humans.”