the weblog of Alan Knox

Pray without ceasing (synchroblog)

Posted by on Aug 27, 2007 in discipleship, fellowship, synchroblog | 20 comments

(This post is part of a “synchroblog” on the topic “How do you pray?” I will post links to the other posts in this synchroblog at the end of this post as they are published.)

I have been taught many things about prayer. I’ve learned that some of these things have more to do with tradition than with communicating with God (i.e., bowing your head, closing your eyes). Other things that I have been taught or have learned have proven very beneficial. For example, a long fast once taught me how to rely on God instead of material things that I thought I needed to be happy or to survive. I’ve learned how to spend long times of quiet solitude talking and listening to God. I’ve learned how to rest in his presence.

I have gone through many seasons of prayer in my life. Some seasons were marked by times of long prayers in the mornings. In other seasons, I mostly prayed at night. There have been times when songs and psalms dominated my prayer. There have been times of lament, and other times of praise. In each of these seasons, I’ve learned more about prayer, more about myself, and more about God. More importantly, in each season, I have found that God is speaking and communicating whether or not I am listening.

A few years ago, a new friend (at that time – now a dear friend) began to remind me often of 1 Thessalonians 5:17 – “Pray without ceasing”. This is a verse that has scared me in the past. I never understood how I could pray without ceasing. I wanted to pray longer. I wanted to pray more often. But, there was always something that would interrupt my times of prayer – and that something was usually life. Life happens. And, when life happens, life interrupts prayer. Right?

At first, it was easier to simply mark up 1 Thessalonians 5:17 as an example of hyperbole – exaggeration. Paul did not really mean that we should pray without ceasing; he simply meant that we should pray as much and as often as we possibly could. This was a nice, clean, doable answer for me. And, there is the problem. It was doable. This means that I could pray more and longer and feel good about myself. Thus, in this vein, prayer becomes an effort to reach God instead of the grace of God communicating with me.

But, if “pray without ceasing” is not hyperbole, then how should I understand it? Not too long ago, I was reminded about a little book by Brother Lawrence (1610-1691) called The Practice of the Presence of God. In the “Fourth Conversation”, Brother Lawrence says:

[W]e might accustom ourselves to a continual conversation with Him, with freedom and in simplicity… [W]e need only to recognize God intimately present with us, to address ourselves to Him every moment, that we may beg His assistance for knowing His will in things doubtful, and for rightly performing those which we plainly see He requires of us, offering them to Him before we do them, and giving Him thanks when we have done.

In this short passage, I think Brother Lawrence hits on a key to prayer: recognizing God as intimately present. God’s intimate presence is not dependent upon my activity or lack of activity. God’s intimate presence is not dependent upon silence or lack of silence. God’s intimate presence is not dependent upon solitude or lack of solitude. God is intimately present with his children through his Spirit at all times, in all places, in all circumstances and situations. Thus, prayer as communication and communion with God is possible at all times, in all places, in all circumstances and situations.

Through the short passage from Brother Lawrence, I learned about a misconception that I had about prayer. Prayer is not simply a two-way conversation between God and myself that can be interrupted by life. Instead, prayer is a two-way conversation between God and myself that, when life happens, turns into a three-way conversation between God, myself, and life. Thus, life does not interrupt God’s conversation with me; instead, life enters into God’s conversation with me as a third conversation partner. God does not stop communicating with me when life happens. It is possible that I stop listening to God when life happens, but that does not mean that God has stopped communicating with me or that I must stop communicating with God.

I love to sit in a group of friends as we talk with one another and listen to one another. I love the interaction and the symphony of many voices reaching understanding. I do not consider it an interruption when there is more than one other person present. In the same way, God is always a conversation partner – a constant, dependable, trustworthy, and true conversation partner. In fact, God is the only constant, dependable, trustworthy, and true conversation partner. The only difficulty in praying without ceasing is choosing to listen to God’s voice over the roar and den of the world as life happens. God is speaking. But we must listen.

Do I pray without ceasing? In some ways, yes, because God is always a part of my life and conversation whether I recognize it or not. But, in another way, I do not pray without ceasing because I do not always recognize and respond to God’s constant and intimate presence. Do you prayer without ceasing?

Those participating in the synchroblog today are:

Cindy Bryan at Run With It – Teach Me to Pray…Again?
Lyn Hallewell at Beyond the 4 Walls – God, Prayer and Me
Erin Word at Decompressing Faith – Prayer=Sex with God
Rick Meigs at The Blind Beggar – Prayer Helps that Get Me Deeper
Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church – Pray without Ceasing
Julie Clawson at One Hand Clapping – Prayer Synchroblog
Heather at Deconstructed Christian – Synchroblog Prayer
Alex at Deconstructed Christian – Prayer Synchroblog II
Lydia at The Nunnery – How Do You Pray
Che Vachon at ThisStream – My Thoughts…
Paul Mayers at One for the Road – Praying and Learning to Pray Again
Sonja Andrews at Calacirian – The Appearance of Holiness
Jon Peres at Something Else – How Do I Pray?
Paul Walker at OUt of the Cocoon – One Congregation Experiments with Emerging Prayer
Susan Barnes at A Booklook – Synchroblog: How Do You Pray?
Brother Maynard at Subversive Influence – Fear Not the Silence
Nate Peres at Defined – How Do I Pray?
Barry Taylor at Honest Faith – Synchroblog:How Do You Pray?
Grace at Emerging Grace – Clearance Sale on Intercession Books
Jim Lehmer at Lord I Believe, Please Help My Unbelief – Synchroblog – How Do You Pray?
Lew A at The Pursuit – How Do You Pray? – Synchroblog
Jon Hallewell at Life-Shaped Faith – When I’m Spoken To
Deb at Another Unfinished Symphony – Prayer Synchroblog
Barb at A Former Leader’s Journey – Prayer Without Throwing Things
Patti Blount at Here Comes the Groom – How Do I Pray
Doug Jones at Perigrinatio – How I Pray
Glenn Hagar at Re-Dreaming the Dream – Prayer Phases
Pam Hogeweide at How God Messed up my Religion – The Art of Blue Tape Spirituality
Mary at One Thing is Needed – How Do I Pray?
Rhonda Mitchell at Rhonda’s Blog – Prayer SynchroBlog
John Smulo at SmuloSpace – Praying Naturally
Rachel Warwick at Not Where Next but Where Now – How Do You Pray?
Barbara Legere at Prodigal Daughter – How to Not Pray
Jonathan Brink at Missio Dei – Posture – Sitting With My Daddy
Andy at A Mile From the Beach – How Do I Pray
Cynthia Clack at A Life Profound – How Do I Pray
Makeesha Fisher at Swinging from the Vine – The Mystery of Prayer
Joy at My Emerging Faith – Synchroblog:Prayer
Rick Stilwell at Mmm…That’s Good Coffee – Push
Larry at Last Exit Before Oblivion – Prayer is Weird
Rob McAlpine at RobbyMac – Synchro-Prayer


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 8-27-2007

    Wow, fantastic post, Alan. I especailly like this part

    “Prayer is not simply a two-way conversation between God and myself that can be interrupted by life. Instead, prayer is a two-way conversation between God and myself that, when life happens, turns into a three-way conversation between God, myself, and life.”

    This is such a good reminder and I love how you’ve put it. It’s something I’ve learned in recent years, that prayer isn’t an action, it’s a lifestyle.

    Thanks for sharing in this synchroblog, I appreciate your voice.

  2. 8-27-2007

    Excellent Alan! I’ve really appreciated reading your contribution. You’ve certainly captured that prayer is a lifestyle – thanks!

  3. 8-27-2007

    Alan- thank you for your contribution!

    “a three-way conversation between God, myself, and life.”

    This is an amazing insight! I’m going to spend a lot more time thinking through it. Thanks for giving me a totally new perspective.

  4. 8-27-2007

    I think it was Spurgeon who said something like, “I rarely pray for more than five minutes. I also rarely go without praying for more than five minutes.”

    Prayer can be sort of an aquifer for our spirit, always running deep under the ground, nourishing and hydrating the surface of our lives.

  5. 8-27-2007


    Thank you. Honestly, I was a little scared of the title of your post, but you make some very good points about prayer and intimacy.


    Prayer is a lifestyle because God is the major player in my life.


    I agree! I am very indebted to a dear brother who is teaching this to me.


    Great Spurgeon quote! Thank you!


  6. 8-27-2007

    Thank Alan. Pray without ceasing is always been a challenge to me as well – i liked how you phrased it here as presence. It also reminds me that the Son and the Spirit are praying for me as well eternally – the invite is to join in with them in there unending prayers.

  7. 8-27-2007

    Alan, I love the three way dimension of prayer. It helps explain the “how” of praying without ceasing.

  8. 8-27-2007


    From one of my co-workers.


    This was great, I really liked it! It never hurts to pray whenever you need to, even if you are driving, cooking or shopping. (I don’t mean praying for more money in the bank account, LOL) I pray like that all the time. But I never know that it said it in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 – “Pray without ceasing.” That’s cool!

  9. 8-27-2007


    Mat 6:5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
    Mat 6:6 “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees {what is done} in secret will reward you.
    Mat 6:7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.
    Mat 6:8 “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

    …He continues with the Lord’s prayer.

    Often when I hear a leader praying in the church it’s almost as if they are trying to communicate indirectly to the people their own personal agenda. Almost like subliminal messaging.

    For example:

    “Lord, please help us come up with the finances to support this ministry.”

    Those that hear this prayer may try to find a way to make it happen so they can feel God used them to answer this prayer. When in reality God might have never answered, or the answer was just the opposite of what they wanted to hear. But, because the leader prayed this, they assume it will come to pass, it’s just a matter of how and when. This builds a self sustaining church and not a Spirit sustaining/guided church. This, to me, is manipulation in God’s name at it’s worst.

    1 Cor.2:16 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ.

    Wow!…if the Spirit is in us than, “we have the mind of Christ.” I’m not sure I can fully grasp what that means but it gives me the shivers when I think about it.

    I love praising God in one mind with others, but I also love communicating with Him alone about everything, whenever and always and never ending.


  10. 8-27-2007


    I think that understanding God as being intimately present with us will affect many of the things that we do.


    Thanks for the comment. God put us in the world to live. If our life distracts us from him, the problem lies with us, not with life itself. Life should drive us toward God and remaining in his presence.


    Thank you for sharing this with others. I’m glad that it was beneficial.


    You said: “Wow… if the Spirit is in us then…” And I stopped in my tracks right there. The Spirit is in us, and since the Spirit is in us… WOW! If only I lived in the power and the presence of the Spirit that is in me.

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to side-track from your comment. It was a great comment, but that phrase spoke volumes to me. Thank you!


  11. 8-28-2007


    One of the most liberating things that I have read on prayer. Thanks!

    “In this short passage, I think Brother Lawrence hits on a key to prayer: recognizing God as intimately present. God’s intimate presence is not dependent upon my activity or lack of activity.”

  12. 8-28-2007

    I too have learned about praying without ceasing these last year or so. You description of it being a three way conversation between God, you and life is excellent! That is it exactly.
    I love talking to the Father in the most natural way.

  13. 8-28-2007


    Thanks for the comment, and I’m glad that you found this post beneficial.


    We should be able to talk to our father naturally. He is living and present. He hears and speaks. He is able to communicate. So, let’s listen and communicate with him as well.


  14. 4-29-2011

    The writings of Brother Lawrence have encouraged me much and there are many treasures in them for those who love Christ. Thanks for this post, may we have a continual conversation of love with our Father through Christ.

  15. 6-23-2011

    Perhaps the strongest read on this topic that I have ever seen. Well said, Alan. Well written my friend. Well thought my brother.

  16. 6-23-2011

    Peter and Doug,

    Thanks! I appreciate the kind words.


  17. 11-8-2012

    for the believer it comes in a very natural way…as we seek and desire more of Him, the more we see what He is capable of doing in our lives, our relationship with Him deepens…it becomes a continuous acknowledgement and awareness of His daily presence…even if it is as simple as speaking the name JESUS and/or our offering of blessing and praise from a grateful heart throughout the day, aloud, or in our thoughts…Let Us Continually Offer Up a Sacrifice of Praise To God, that is, the Fruit of Lips that Give Thanks To His Name~Heb13:15

  18. 11-8-2012


    It is very natural (or supernatural) when we are walking in the Spirit. However, even though the Spirit never leaves us, we are not always walking in him. So, it’s good to remind each other and encourage each other in this consistently.


  19. 5-9-2013

    This has also been my interpretation. If God were visibly next to you all day long you would be communicating with him about what is happening throughout the day: the events of life, your actions and reactions, asking advice, etc.

  20. 5-9-2013


    Yes, exactly. That’s a great way to put it.