1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Reflect and Pray:
In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul tells the community to “pray without ceasing.” Now, I think our first reaction to this might be, “Well, that’s fine if you’re some kind of monk or something.” The thing is, Paul didn’t send his letter to a monastery. Thessalonica was a Greek port city in the province of Macedonia. It was a trade hub on a major Roman highway. This community would have been very aware of how their values and priorities stood against those of the surrounding culture – which had been their culture until their conversion. They probably faced pressures to turn back to that old life. Paul sends this letter to encourage them both to stand firm in their faith and to develop disciplines that will help them to do that. Disciplines normal people can do in their normal lives.
What might it mean, then, to pray without ceasing in the context of our real, non-monk-like lives? Perhaps all Paul meant was “Keep up your prayer life,” but the Greek word for “without ceasing” means “incessantly,” “without intermission.” So even if he did mean something like “Don’t forget to pray every day,” the message is that we’re not only to be praying every day, but we’re to be praying all through the day. So maybe Paul had something else in mind besides mumbling prayers over and over and over.
What he may have had in mind was living our whole life in a state of prayer, by that I mean in an awareness that we belong to the God who created us, loves us, claims us, and always, always leads us toward what we’re created to be – if we just pay attention. This certainly includes bringing everything to God. Everything. This is modeled for us in the psalms, which are full of pain, fear and anger, including anger at God. While people tend to put on their best manners when talking with God, I think God wants it all.
Even the strictest of Jews didn’t pray all day. However, they did pray daily and regularly. To pray without ceasing could mean this type of prayer or to carry the attitude of prayer with one’s self throughout the day, not just in personal worship or quite times. Unceasing prayer doesn’t require any one single technique. The important thing is that it should not be like a AAA card, just to be taken out in emergencies – prayer needs to he be the breath of life always.
What does the idea of “prayer being the breath of life” mean to you?