Desert Wisdom: Unceasing Prayer

We are never nearer to the disposition of prayer in general or to the mindset of the early Christians in particular than when connect with St. Paul’s words, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  Bunge turns to an extended treatment of this understanding of prayer (pp. 105-112).

Nothing counterfeits prayer as much as the notion that it is a “time”—that is, a stated and marked moment of communion with God.  The caricature is not due to the necessity of fixed moments of devotion (which we have previously and clearly established in these postings), but rather to the tendency to think of prayer too much as a temporary encounter with God.

Instead, prayer is conversation with God (listening and speaking), and as such, it is an experience that takes place all the time.  To be sure, our minds are not conscious of this perpetual dialog all the time.  All of us move “in and out” of a prayerful awareness, and that’s one reason why we have fixed times of prayer to call us back into attentiveness.

But on the level of our soul, our predecessors in the faith believed that we are in constant communion with God.  In fact, they saw this as the “spiration” (spiritual breathing) necessary for life itself.  For prayer ever actually to cease, would (as they saw it) be for life itself to cease, because it is in God that “we live, move, and have our being.”

Unceasing prayer is a fundamental orientation of our lives to God.  Standing in the grocery-store checkout line is as Real as going to church on Sunday.  Watching a sunrise is as holy as singing a hymn.  Prayer is the means by which we receive the continuous revelations of God and the means by which we respond in thought, word, or deed.

Unceasing prayer eliminates compartments, allowing God to have as much sway in our lives when we are performing routine tasks, as when we have headed out on a mission trip.  Unceasing prayer is the way we say, “Jesus is Lord.”

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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