“Always keep on praying.”
1 Thessalonians 5:17
“If the spiritual life be healthy, under the full power of the Holy Spirit, praying without ceasing will be natural.”
Andrew Murray – South African Pastor & Teacher
Dean Karnazes is an ultra marathoner. What’s an ultra marathon you ask? It is roughly defined as any race that eclipses the 26.2 mile marathon mark. Most ultra marathons range somewhere between 50 to 200 miles. Karnazes himself has run dozens of these, including the 135-mile Death Valley race, a 200-mile relay by himself, and has topped it all with a 350-mile run. What’s even more grueling about these races is the time frame in which they are run. Many are run within 24-48 hours. Some of the longest, however, can stretch for 3-6 days. It is literally running without ceasing.
Paul advocates a similar marathon in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 – the ultra prayer marathon. He recommends a prayer life that does not stop at 26.2 miles but continues daily, weekly, monthly. Prayer without ceasing. Surely Paul cannot expect us to do that…can he?
One day Nehemiah, a prophet, was called to stand before King Artaxerxes. Nehemiah was sad. It could be a death sentence if you went before the king sad, because the King had enough on his mind without having to be concerned with anyone else’s worries. The king asked Nehemiah, “Why are you sad?” And Nehemiah said, “The gates of my hometown in Jerusalem are broken down.” And the king asked, “What do you want?” The Bible says Nehemiah prayed. Did he get down on his knees? No. It was that quick prayer to the Lord, “Lord, help me! Give me the words to say! Give me wisdom!” Nehemiah knew the power of prayer without ceasing.
In John 15, Jesus called this “abiding in him.” In the late 1600s, a devout Christian, Brother Lawrence, wrote articles on what he called Practicing the Presence of God. In one of these he said, “I write this only because you have so earnestly requested that I explain to you the method by which I have learned how to develop an habitual sense of God’s presence, which our Lord, in his mercy, has been pleased to grant me.”
What does it mean to abide in Christ, or practice the presence of God, or pray without ceasing? It is a continuous, deliberate fellowship with the Father that involves four activities.
Focus on God
First and foremost is focus. You are going to focus on God all day long, and talk to Him, (pray) all day long. The Bible doesn’t really describe the length of your individual prayers, but focuses more on the frequency of your prayers. We are told to pray all the time. This is not necessarily a formal time of prayer. Rather it is your soul’s constant communication with your Heavenly Father – expressing your thanksgiving to Him, repenting of sin, and offering up requests.
Listening to God
Secondly, listening to God, hearing His voice. In John 10, Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and they obey me.” So, we are listening for His voice, to help us be obedient and to align ourselves with His will.
Think about God
Thirdly, we need to meditate on Him; always thinking on Him and what He says to say and do. In The Lord’s Prayer, we begin with “Hallowed be your name.” We talked before about the names of God. You are thinking about His attributes, His Name and who He is. This will result in amazing things in your life and will continually bolster your faith.
Think about God’s Word
Fourthly, when you are praying without ceasing, you are fixating on God’s Word. His Word is what we get into our hearts to replace the things of this world. We will then begin to hear His voice, which the Bible says allows the Holy Spirit to bring His Word back to our mind.
What Can I expect ?
What happens to a person who prays without ceasing? First of all, he has great peace. “Great peace have they who love your law (His Word), and nothing can make them stumble.” (Psalm 119:165) If you are meditating on God’s Word, you are going to have great peace.
Next, you become more fruitful. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) You will be fruitful when you abide in Christ, because you are thinking His thoughts about His word. Hence, what you say or do is a reflection of Christ; you become a light for others. As people gravitate around you, your opportunity to share Christ grows geometrically.
Next, you will become prosperous. In others words, God will bless your life. In fact God promised that if we would meditate on His word He would make us “prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:8) That is a huge promise, and even repeated in the Bible. David talks about the person who meditates on God’s word; saying, “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers!” (Psalm 1:3)
Lastly, you begin living in the moment. You’re not thinking about the failures or successes of the past. You are not concerned about the problems or the pleasures of the future. You will think about the present, because you are going to see all the immediate needs in front of you through God’s eyes. Hence, you are constantly bringing those things before God because you are in constant contact with Him.
Your sinful nature is not going to let you pray without ceasing without a fight. Your flesh is going to say, “I don’t want to pray! I don’t want to think about God!” And you are going to have a fight on your hands as you begin this process. But fight that fight, it is worth it in the end.
So I encourage you today to begin a new life – a life of ultra-prayer. Enter into His presence and enter into a relationship with Him where you pray without ceasing. He will change your life and you will never regret it.