(Condensed, with permission, from the author's blog at lightontherock.org)
Scripture says in many places that we are to “pray always” or to pray “without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, Ephesians 6:18, etc.). How can we possibly do that? What does that mean? Understanding the answers will make all the difference in the level of our relationship with our heavenly Father.
It does not mean that we must literally have our head bowed, eyes closed, while praying non-stop 24 hours a day! We all would have been fired from our jobs long ago if we lived like that. It means we go through each day with an active awareness of the presence of the Almighty. It means we take time to connect with Him dozens of times a day in quick short prayers.
We surely should connect with our Father first and last thing each day – especially in a formal prayer time on our knees. David and Daniel prayed three times a day in these formal type prayers (Psalm 55:17; Daniel 6:10, 13). In these prayers we praise Him, thank Him, ask for His forgiveness for where we fell short; we intercede for others, and we ask for the help we need as well. But we always praise and thank.
These times of prayer on our knees, I think of as “formal prayer times” and I think they are necessary. It is good for US to be on our knees before our Maker. It is good for US to confess our sins, to ask forgiveness, and then to praise and to intercede. That’s formal prayer time primarily. I recommend you be sure you are giving God this honor. Don’t fall for the teaching that it’s OK to JUST have quickie prayers while we shave or do dishes or drive to work on the freeway. We should have definite formal prayer times on our knees (if our knees and bodies allow for that) first as the foundation. THEN, to those times, we add the concept of “praying without ceasing”.
We’re told that Cornelius, the first Gentile convert, was a devout man who “prayed to God ALWAYS” (Acts 10:2). As a centurion, he had many responsibilities, so how could he possibly pray to God always?
So HOW do we “pray always”?
I believe it means going through the day with a keen awareness of the presence of God in your life. That will be easier to do if we started the day on a foundation of prayer, before we eat, before we go to work. It’s easier to do if you’ve consciously asked Him to help you “turn your heart” back to Him. After that, you’ll be getting nudged by His Spirit many times a day. You’re “hearing His voice” in many different ways, conversations and circumstances. So to me it means that all through the day we’re connecting with Father in dozens of quick short prayers. It’s like touching base with our Maker all through the day. If you’re not doing that already, you’ll be amazed how your life changes once you make a practice of calling on Father all through the day and into the night. He’s a FATHER! He LIKES hearing from His kids.
So think of “praying always” as a way to be walking and talking with God all day long. Always. Be saying silent prayers before and during important meetings. Lift up a brother or sister in Christ to heavenly realms in prayers several times a day, every day. Look up and just quietly ask Father to smooth out your paths for you, if things aren’t going well. Maybe you should have touched base many times before that point already! When feeling anxious, I like to look up and say something like, “There I go again. I don’t want it to be me – but to be YOU. I have no reason to worry or fret since you are with me. I have every reason to claim the victory, to shout the joyful triumphs, even long before I see the final outcome, knowing I walk with the King of the Universe!”
Our spirit should be in lock step with God’s Spirit. It should be like the cloud over the Israelites in their wilderness wanderings – when the Cloud moved, they moved. When it stood still, they stood still. We should be so responsive to God’s spirit moving in us that we are in lock step with HIS will, HIS desire, and HIS purpose. It’s when we let the “noise” of society, too much TV-facebook-smart phone-emails-texting-twitter-games, too many concerns and worries and things that busy us crowd out Father’s voice that it starts to diminish. If we are “in Him”, we will grow in the ability to harmonize His will into our lives, to subjugate our own desires and seek His pleasure in everything we do.
This harmony comes about largely by constantly connecting and checking in throughout the day. And that is also WHY we “pray without ceasing” – to get in harmony with God our Father. To hear His voice. To let Him hear ours. And to walk together in the Spirit.