16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 English Standard Version (ESV)
For years I struggled with this middle verse, what does it look like to pray without ceasing? In college I had several failed attempts at the effort of praying without stopping, I would try, but it always seemed impossible.
I think one of the reasons why I struggled so bad, was that my definition of prayer was so small. Prayer was an action and although I meant well, it ended up sounding extremely repetitive.
I am older now, and with more gray hairs on my head I would not define prayer as a momentary action, but as a state of being. I know that may sound strange, but let me explain.
I believe that prayer is the practice of the continual dwelling in the presence of God. Therefore, to pray without ceasing would mean to continually dwell in Him.
This may sound confusing, especially if you only view prayer as an action like I did. We often define prayer as just talking to God, or a conversation with God. I think this is true, however, if we are the only ones talking then the conversation is a bit one sided.
In my marriage, my wife and I strive to communicate well. Over the years we have even mastered the art of certain looks that communicate volumes, like the, "your husband is an introvert and ready to get out of this room of people" look.
Many times words aren't needed, many times I don't have the words I need.
As we have gone through trials I understand deeper the truths of the verse below:
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
Romans 8:26 English Standard Version (ESV)
Sometimes I don't have the words, yet that doesn't mean I am not praying.
Praying without ceasing doesn't mean mastering the art of talking non-stop. I believe it means to develop and cultivate the ability to continually dwell in the presence of God and to be in constant communion with Him. Words may be helpful as you discuss certain things with God, however, they are not always necessary.
How can you cultivate the art and practice of continually dwelling in the presence of God? I often find myself drifting, and that will happen. However, I once heard a wise man say that although you may not be able to control that your mind drifts, you can determine where it will land. I have found it helpful to give myself reminders or check in's throughout my day. I have used things like the reminders app on my phone to pray for certain people or things at various intervals. Most of the time one of the most helpful things for me to do is to stop, step away from my desk and take a walk with God. As the old proverb says, don't try to eat and elephant in one sitting. In the same way, start small. Try to take three pauses in your day and then slowly add in more. Use the tools that are around you, like the reminders or notes app in your phone. Rest in the fact that the Lord delights in you and longs for you to continuously dwell in His presence, words optional.