By Lydia Teh
We all know what 1 Thess. 5:17 says. In most versions (KJV, NKJV, NASB, ASV), it has three words: Pray without ceasing.
What does it mean to pray without ceasing? It certainly doesn’t mean to pray continuously for this would mean praying without interruption.
In the NIV version, the verse says: Pray continually. In RSV: Pray constantly.
In dictionary.com, continually means “very often; at regular or frequent intervals.” Constantly means often. Muslims pray five times a day, how many times should Christians pray to qualify as continually or constantly?
God has not set a fixed number of times that we ought to pray in a day. We are to pray as often as we can, whether it’s thrice a day on some days or six times on others. It could be a protracted session where you pour out your heart to God or a quick two-minute prayer for someone who has an urgent need.
In Elizabeth George’s workbook “Woman after God’s own heart,” she wrote: “Continual prayer is not meaningless repetition, nor is it praying without a break. Praying continually means praying in any circumstance. At any time during the day, you can breathe a prayer to the Lord, talk aloud to Him as you drive, or continue to express your thanks to God in a hymn or song of praise.”
When to pray
When should we pray? If we were to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, we would wake up early in the morning and pray, before the hustle and bustle of the day starts.
“Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed (Mk 1:35).
Jesus prayed at night too. “Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God” (Lk 6:12).
Prayer need not be confined to a specific time. Anytime is a good time.
Where to pray
The common factor in the above verses is that Jesus withdrew from people so that He could pray. He went to a “solitary place” and the mountain. Our solitary place could be the bedroom, our study, the garden or even the toilet, especially if you are a mother with young children who can only be truly alone there. When I was facing trouble at work as a young secretary, the toilet was my refuge; it was there that I continually prayed for strength to overcome my problems.
How to pray
Knowing how to pray is important if we want our prayers to be answered. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures (Jas. 4:3). We must ask with the right motive. We can’t hoodwink God. He knows our heart (Lk 16:14).
No matter how severe our trials and tribulations are, we must approach God with thankfulness. There is always something to be thankful for.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7).