Praying without ceasing shouldn’t be taken literally, says Pastor John Piper. But what does it really mean?
In his latest podcast on DesiringGod.org, a site focused on glorifying God, Piper explains just what it means to “pray without ceasing.”
The pastor dissects verses in 1 Thessalonians 5:5-18, which, in part, calls for Christians to “see that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but to “rejoice evermore” and to “pray without ceasing.”
Piper says that a believer who prays without ceasing has the following mindset:
1. A spirit of dependence on God
Piper says dependence is the very spirit and essence of prayer and faith. Although one might not be verbally speaking to God, but there is an abiding dependence on Him.
2. Prays repeatedly and often
In reference to the Apostle Paul, Piper says: “We can be sure, can’t we, that Paul did not make mention of the Romans in every minute or second of his prayers or his days or his preaching. He prayed and he spoke about lots of other things besides the Romans. But he mentioned them over and over. He mentioned them often. He mentioned them regularly.”
“So, he [Paul] says: ‘I mentioned you without ceasing.’ It doesn’t mean that he was verbally and mentally always, every second mentioning them. It means that over and over, always, repeatedly, without fail, when I get on my knees, you are in my prayer. That is basically what I think he means by ‘without ceasing’ — repeatedly and often.”
3. Doesn’t give up on prayer
Piper urges Christians to never come to a point where they give up on prayer. “That would be the very opposite of ‘without ceasing.'”
4. Establishes set times for prayer
Many people say they’d rather always be in a spirit of prayer and don’t need set times to pray. Piper doesn’t agree with this way of thinking.
“I think that is ridiculous,” he says. “I think it is unbiblical and [I] think it is unrealistic if they just knew themselves, because it is disciplined, regular times of prayer that fit us for the kind of spirit that enables us to enjoy the hour-by-hour, spontaneous walk with God.”
Piper uses the biblical figure Daniel who prayed three times a day as well as experienced spontaneous encounters with God.
“Daniel lived a life that combined discipline three times a day with spontaneous encounters with God. … I think that is the way it should be with us. If we hope to pray without ceasing day and night in the way Paul calls us to, enjoying that kind of continual communion with God and that repeated coming to Him, we are going to need to develop disciplined times of prayer as well.”