“Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Our Lord told the parable of the widow and the unjust judge to teach us that men ought to pray without ceasing. The widow persevered in seeking one definite thing. The parable appears to refer to persevering in prayer for some special blessing, when God delays or appears to refuse. The Epistles, which speak of continuing in prayer, watching for the answer, and praying always in the Spirit, appear to refer to something different-the whole life being one of prayer. As the soul longs for the manifestation of God’s glory to us, in us, through us, and around us, the inmost life of the soul is continually rising upward in dependence, faith, longing desire, and trustful expectation.
What is needed to live such a life of prayer? The first thing is undoubtedly an entire sacrifice of one’s life to God’s Kingdom and glory. If you try to pray without ceasing because you want to be very pious and good, you will never succeed. Yielding ourselves to live for God and His honor enlarges the heart and teaches us to regard everything in the light of God and His will. We instinctively recognize in everything around us the need for God’s help and blessing, and an opportunity for His being glorified.
Everything is weighed and tested by the one thing that fills the heart: the glory of God. The soul has learned that only what is of God can really glorify Him. Through the heart and soul, the whole life becomes a looking up, a crying from the inmost heart, for God to prove His power and love, and reveal His glory. The believer awakes to the consciousness that he is one of the watchmen on Zion’s walls, whose call really does touch and move the King in heaven to do what would otherwise not be done. He understands how real Paul’s exhortation was: “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit for all the saints and for me,” and “continue in prayer, with all praying also for us.” To forget oneself-to live for God and His Kingdom among men-is the way to learn to pray without ceasing.
This life devoted to God must be accompanied by the deep confidence that our prayer is effective. In His prayer lessons, our Blessed Lord insisted on faith in the Father as a God Who most certainly does what we ask. “Ask and ye shall receive.” To count confidently on an answer is the beginning and the end of His teaching. (Compare Matthew 7:8 and John 16:24.)
As we gain the assurance that our prayers are effective and that God does what we ask, we dare not neglect the use of this wonderful power. Our souls should turn wholly to God, and our lives should become prayer. The Lord needs and takes time, because we and everyone around us are creatures of time, subject to the law of growth. But know that not one single prayer of faith can possibly be lost, and that sometimes there is a necessity for accumulating prayer. Know that persevering prayer pleases God. Prayer becomes the quiet, persistent living of our life of desire and faith in the presence of our God.
Don’t limit such free and sure promises of the living God with your reasoning any longer! Don’t rob them of their power, and ourselves of the wonderful confidence they are meant to inspire! The hindrance is not in God, not in His secret will, and not in the limitations of His promises. It is in us. We are not what we should be to obtain the promise. Open your whole heart to God’s words of promise in all their simplicity and truth! They will search us and humble us. They will lift us up and make us glad and strong. To the faith that knows it gets what it asks for, prayer is not a work or a burden, but a joy and a triumph. It becomes a necessity and a second nature.
This union of strong desire and firm confidence is nothing but the life of the Holy Spirit within us. The Holy Spirit dwells in us, hides Himself in the depths of our being, and stirs our desire for the Unseen and the Divine-God Himself. It is always the Holy Spirit Who draws out the heart to thirst for God and to long for His being recognized and glorified. Sometimes He speaks through us in groanings that cannot be uttered, sometimes in clear and conscious assurance, sometimes in distinct petitions for the deeper revelation of Christ to ourselves, and sometimes in pleas for a soul, a work, the Church or the world. Where the child of God really lives and walks in the Spirit-where he is not content to remain carnal, but tries to be a fit, spiritual organ for the Divine Spirit to reveal the life of Christ and Christ Himself-there the neverceasing life of intercession of the Blessed Son must reveal and repeat itself. Because it is the Spirit of Christ Who prays in us, our prayers must be heard. Because it is we who pray in the Spirit, there is need of time, patience, and continual renewing of the prayer until every obstacle is conquered, and the harmony between God’s Spirit and ours is perfect.
The chief thing we need for a life of unceasing prayer is to know that Jesus teaches us to pray. We have begun to understand a little of what His teaching is. It isn’t the communication of new thoughts or views, the discovery of failure or error, nor the arousal of desire and faith, however important all this may be. Jesus’ teaching takes us up into the fellowship of His own prayer-life before the Father. This is how Jesus really teaches. It was the sight of Jesus praying that made the disciples ask to be taught to pray. The faith of Jesus’ continuous prayer truly teaches us to pray.
We know why: He Who prays is our Head and our life. All He has is ours and is given to us when we give ourselves completely to Him. By His blood, He leads us into the immediate presence of God. The inner sanctuary is our home; we live there. Living so close to God and knowing we have been taken there to bless those who are far away, we cannot help but pray.
Christ makes us partakers with Himself of His prayer-power and prayer-life. Our true aim must not be to work a great deal and pray just enough to keep the work right. We should pray a great deal and then work enough for the power and blessing obtained in prayer to find its way through us to men. Christ lives to pray eternally; He saves and reigns. He communicates His prayer-life to us and maintains it in us if we trust Him. He is responsible for our praying without ceasing. Christ teaches us to pray by showing us how He does it, by doing it in us, and by leading us to do it in Him and like Him. Christ is everything-the life and the strength-for a neverceasing prayer-life. Seeing Christ’s continuous praying as our life enables us to pray without ceasing. Because His priesthood is the power of an endless life-that resurrection life that never fades and never fails-and because His life is our life, praying without ceasing can become the joy of heaven here on earth. The Apostle says, “Rejoice evermore: pray without ceasing: in everything give thanks.” Supported by never-ceasing joy and neverceasing praise, never-ceasing prayer is the manifestation of the power of the eternal life where Jesus always prays.
The union between the Vine and the branch is indeed a prayer union. The highest conformity to Christ-the most blessed participation in the glory of His heavenly life-is that we take part in His work of intercession. He and we live forever to pray. In union with Him, praying without ceasing becomes a possibility-a reality, the holiest and most blessed part of our holy and blessed fellowship with God. We abide within the veil in the presence of the Father. What the Father says, we do. What the Son asks, the Father does. Praying without ceasing is the earthly manifestation of heaven, a foretaste of the life where they rest neither day nor night in their song of worship and adoration.
Lord, teach us to pray.
Here is a prayer for you:
O my Father! With my whole heart I praise You for this wondrous life of continuous prayer, continuous fellowship, continuous answers, and continuous oneness with Him Who lives to pray forever! O my God! Keep me abiding and walking in the presence of Your glory, so that prayer may be the spontaneous expression of my life with You.
Blessed Savior! With my whole heart I praise You for coming from heaven to share my needs and my pleas, so that I could share Your all- powerful intercession. Thank You for taking me into Your school of prayer, teaching me the blessedness and the power of a life that is totally comprised of prayer. And most of all, thank You for taking me up into the fellowship of Your life of intercession. Now through me, too, Your blessings can be dispensed to those around me.
Holy Spirit! With deep reverence I thank You for Your work in me. Through You I am lifted up into communication with the Son and the Father, entering the fellowship of the life and love of the Holy Trinity.
Spirit of God! Perfect Your work in me! Bring me into perfect union with Christ, My Intercessor! Let Your unceasing indwelling make my life one of unceasing intercession. And let my life unceasingly glorify the Father and bless those around me. In Jesus Name Amen.
Excerpt taken from With Christ In The School of Prayer by Andrew Murray