“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”
1 Thessalonians 5:14–22 ESV
If you’re ever in the market for a formula to give you a fulfilling life, this is it.
It reads almost like the ultimate daily checklist —
- Admonish the idle
- Encourage the fainthearted
- Help the weak
- Do good to one another
- Rejoice always
- Pray without ceasing… wait, really? how is that possible?
A few weeks ago I read through this particular group of verses with the purpose of adopting them in my daily routine. I had heard the phrase so many times, but for the first time I actually let my brain munch on the words “Pray without ceasing”.
The phrase is so common in the Christian community that I had become desensitized to the commitment it asks of us. We are clearly called to ‘pray without ceasing’ but what does that mean for a busy college student? How can I engage in the world around me while constantly praying?
I decided to dive into the question. I read articles, spoke to my pastor, got input from a few wise friends and most importantly, read the Bible.
Here are my findings —
‘Praying without ceasing’ cannot mean a continuous and conscious stream of thought directed to God.
My original thought was that maybe we are called to a perpetual state of multitasking. Maybe what it means to pray without ceasing is to always have God in the back of your mind, speaking to Him as you go about your day.
It is a nice thought to be sure but it does not quite add up.
Nancy K. Kapiner, contributor to psychologytoday.com, writes,
“Much recent neuroscience research tells us that the brain doesn’t really do tasks simultaneously, as we thought (hoped) it might. In fact, we just switch tasks quickly. Each time we move from hearing music to writing a text or talking to someone, there is a stop/start process that goes on in the brain.”
This may seem a little inconsequential to the question at hand, it does, however, tell us that unless we are 100% fixated on prayer, ‘without ceasing’ is not what it seems. A constant unwavering focus on conscience prayer is impossible.
So, how do we fulfill Gods calling to ‘Pray without ceasing’ as busy college students? I found that the answer lies in not how we define prayer, but how we define ‘without ceasing’. As it turns out, the original Hebrew translation more closely resembles ‘constantly recurring’ than ‘without ceasing’.
This, from my perspective, is a clear command to pray in all circumstances by relating your daily life to God’s purpose. If we have the mentality of constantly praying, we will never be able to properly focus on our surroundings. If however, we live with the purpose of telling God about our daily actions and experiences, we will be able to pray ‘constantly recurring prayers’ about the good, bad and mundane aspects of college life. This will increase our ability to connect with God and our environment.