“How can I pray without ceasing, like Paul says?” asked a She Blossoms reader on 5 Ways to Talk to God When You Can’t Pray. “I’m a single mom and I have to go to work, walk the dog, feed my kids and do the housework. How is it possible to keep praying constantly when you have real responsibilities?”
One of my small group members (I’m in a community group of Christians through my church, The Bridge) said almost the exact same thing: “It’s impossible to pray without stopping when you have to sit through work meetings, prepare reports, take the kids to soccer practice and decide what to do about your mom who is struggling with dementia and doesn’t want to go to a home. Praying without ceasing is not an option.”
Learning how to pray continually is Paul’s encouragement in 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.”
As always, it’s crucial to look at Paul’s words in context. In other words, what was his situation and surroundings? What was Paul experiencing, and who was he talking to? What was he talking about, and why did he write this letter? How does Paul’s exhortation to “pray without ceasing” apply to Christians today — and to your life in particular?
As part of your search for tips or ways to pray continually, reflect on the who, what, when, where, and why of Paul’s words. Don’t just take it at face value, or allow others to tell you what it means to pray without ceasing. Do some digging yourself. Learn more about God and Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Nurture your relationship with the living God — the source of all peace, power, joy and holiness — by getting under the spout where the Holy Spirit pours out.
How to Pray Without Ceasing – 3 Steps
If you’ve read my recent blog posts or newsletters, you know I’m working on a She Blossoms Through the Bible project. I’m writing an article for every chapter in every book of Scripture, and today is Leviticus 19: Laws of Holiness. Talk about praying without ceasing! God called His chosen people to be holy as He is holy…and that cannot happen without being saturated in prayer.
1. Define “prayer”
Leviticus 19 — God’s laws of holiness for the Israelites, His chosen people — are commands that affect every aspect of life. The Jewish Study Bible says Leviticus 19 is a mixture of laws “from worship to fairness in commerce, from legal proceedings to reverence for the Temple, from idolatry and the avoidance of pagan practices to family relations, from the use of the name of God in oaths to support for the needy, from the sanctity of first fruits to theft and fraud—all on equal footing.” Why? Because God, who brought the Israelites out of Egypt and saved them from slavery, is holy and good and just. “You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.” – Leviticus 19:2. Today, Christians aren’t required to follow God’s ancient Old Testament laws of holiness because Jesus Christ filled the law on our behalf, but we want to be holy because we love, worship, honor God. We want to glorify Him by being holy… and the only way to become holy is to pray.
Learn what it means to pray. Before you can learn what it means to “pray without ceasing” you must learn the definition of prayer. The most basic definition of prayer is “talking to God.” I write to Jesus every morning in my journal, sometimes surrendering my worries to God but mostly praising and thanking the Holy Spirit for every blessing in my life. Prayer isn’t just asking God for healing, better relationships, a job or safe travels. Prayer is supposed to transform you into His image, to make you more holy — just like the Israelites had God’s laws of holiness. Those laws were to make the Israelites a holy people, set apart from their neighbors. Prayer can do the same thing for us today.
2. Learn a simple breath prayer
Leviticus 19 tells us that holiness could be temporarily achieved by performing God’s commands, but it was constantly lost. Holiness came and went — this was normal for the Israelites because they were human. God expected them to make mistakes, hurt each other, and even hurt themselves. That’s why He gave Moses the laws! To help the Israelites through their sins and weaknesses, and bring them back into God’s holiness. The book of Leviticus — especially the first half — describe how the Israelites turned back to God and atoned for their sins (read How to Stop Doing What You Don’t Want to Do). Holiness was hard work in the Old Testament…but today, holiness is as close as learning how to pray without ceasing. And it’s simpler than you think.
Inhale and exhale “Yahweh” or God: Yah (inhale) weh (exhale). I learned this simple breath prayer a few weeks ago, and it has changed my prayer life in powerful ways. I breathe God’s name Yahweh. Inhale Yah, and exhale weh. This way, I can pray without even thinking. Every breath is literally a prayer, for it is a gift from God. “For Christians, prayer should be like breathing. You do not have to think to breathe because the atmosphere exerts pressure on your lungs and essentially forces you to breathe. That is why it is more difficult to hold your breath than it is to breathe.” – from What does it mean to pray without ceasing? on GotQuestions.
3. Catch yourself breathing
While reading the book of Leviticus I wondered how the Israelites’ sins were discovered. Some problems were easily recognized. For example, ignoring or mistreating newcomers was easy to see. “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19:33-34. Other sins, however, required the guilty party to confess their crime. For example, Leviticus 19:17 says “‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.” The nature of a person’s heart isn’t always obvious, which means the Israelites would have to “catch” themselves doing wrong. They’d also have to want to turn to God, offer sacrifices, and accept His forgiveness. Holiness was a lot of hard work in the old days!
Make praying continually like breathing without ceasing. Often throughout the day — now that praying without ceasing has become a habit — I catch myself breathing. And then I remember Yahweh. I breathe in (Yah) and breathe out (weh). I remind myself that this is one way to pray without ceasing, to be in God’s presence without asking Him for healing, gifts, blessings, peace. I become aware of the Holy Spirit and remember how Jesus Christ gave His life for me. I remind myself how much my Father loves me, how unique and beautiful I am. I remember that by simply breathing I am praying without ceasing…and I am blossoming into who He created me to be.
Breathing is praying without ceasing — if you become aware of God’s presence in this moment. Inhaling and exhaling are ways to pray continually if you turn your mind to Jesus. In fact, a simple breath prayer can be more powerful and transformative than an extended prayer that ends with “in Jesus’ name.”
Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you that you are continually praying. Notice the peace, joy and freedom of Jesus that fills your heart. Be grateful for every breath you breathe, for it’s not only a gift from God…it is prayer itself.
Your thoughts — big or little, in agreement or otherwise — are welcome below. I’d especially love to hear your experience with this breath prayer. Will you try it as a way to pray without ceasing and let me know how it goes?
For more ideas on how to pray without ceasing, read If You Want a More Meaningful Relationship With God.