Think about how often we communicate with our close friends on campus either in person or through technology. Imagine seeing a friend several times in one day and yet not communicating with them. How would your friend feel if you never talked to them or even acknowledged their presence throughout the day? Yet how often do we go an entire day without acknowledging God’s presence (except to thank Him briefly for our meals) or fellowshipping with Him in prayer? “If we communicated with our friends as infrequently as some of us communicate with the Lord, those friends might soon disappear.” (John MacArthur, Alone with God)
How do you practically “pray without ceasing?” This does involve setting aside specific time to pray. However, let’s think about being in the attitude or spirit of prayer at all times. As John MacArthur puts it, “I think of praying at all times as living in continual God consciousness, where everything we see and experience becomes a kind of prayer, lived in deep awareness of and surrender to our Heavenly Father" (Ibid.). How do we live in this kind of continual fellowship? Foremost, we must have a right view of God. When we see God as our Creator, Heavenly Father, and Best Friend, we desire the close communion that is possible only through prayer.
Let’s consider 3 aspects of praying at all times.
1) Praying at all times is a command. The New Testament contains over 30 commands to pray and many examples of Christ praying. One of our biggest motivations to prayer should be the fact that God commands us to pray. As you may have learned from a catechism, our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Enjoying God can only happen when we fellowship with Him! So prayerlessness is denying our chief end as a believer. Prayerlessness is, in fact, sin.
2) Praying at all times is an expression of our dependence on God. When we pray, we are living in awareness of our omnipresent God. Praying at all times includes asking, interceding, thanking, pleading for help in temptation and much more! These are all expressions of reliance on our Heavenly Father. How can we put on the armor of God expecting victory and not depend on God through prayer? Look at how often the Gospels show Christ praying. If Christ—the very Son of God—prayed as often and as fervently as He did, how much more do we need to be devoted to prayer?
3) Praying at all times is linked with thankfulness. Colossians 4:2 says, "Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving" (also Phil 4:6, 1 Thess 5:16-18). How often do we thank God for the little blessings of the day? I can remember multiple occasions when driving that I voiced my thanks to God for a close parking spot when it was raining or an escape from a near-accident. And how often do we thank God for the challenges of the day? I love how one author puts it, “I have learned that in every circumstance that comes my way, I can choose to respond in one of two ways: I can whine or I can worship! And I can't worship without giving thanks" (Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Choosing Grattitude).
Here are some practical suggestions for praying at all times that I’ve tried to incorporate in my own life:
Overall, ponder how you can cultivate an intimate relationship with the Lord, so that communicating with Him becomes instinctive.