Pray Without Ceasing
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV
When we think of prayer, we typically imagine someone sitting alone with their eyes tightly shut, their hands clasped, and speaking softly or silently with great reverence. A quick Google search for “prayer” brings up images reflecting this portrayal. When I was growing up, most of my formative experiences with prayer followed that pattern; I developed a general sense that prayer was something to be done directly and intentionally with a clear, focused mind. Accordingly, when God commands us not only to pray, but also to pray without ceasing, it can feel like a tall command for those of us who, like me, struggle to maintain control over the busyness of life in law school. That feeling is due, however, to a misconception about the nature of prayer.
Thus far I have described prayer as being of a certain style, namely, taking place in a quiet space with a clear, focused mind. And it certainly is those things—all of those things—but it can also take other forms. Throughout the Scriptures, we see beautiful examples of this truth. Prayer is Paul and Silas singing to God amidst imprisonment and persecution (Acts 16:25). Prayer is Daniel’s cries of confession to God (Daniel 9:4). Prayer is Mary’s giving praise to God after Gabriel foretold the birth of our Savior (Luke 1:49). Prayer is Jesus’ entrusting His sorrow to God the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39).
Make no mistake: I still segment time off for quiet prayer and contemplation with God. But what I have begun to do more and more over this past year is to pray throughout the day—on the way to and from classes, during the preparation of assignments, or while heading off to study with a friend. As a result, I have come to recognize my deep spiritual need for that closeness with God. In the biographical drama film Shadowlands, the character of C.S. Lewis remarks: “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.” And therein lies one of the core reasons we are commanded to pray: our spiritual health relies on it.
Have the strength to prioritize your spiritual life—do not neglect it. No sorrow or anxiety is too small or insignificant for our God who loves us more than we can imagine. He tells us: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 KJV. The busyness of law school and legal practice is formidable, but we can always find time for prayer. Such time is never wasted, either; through prayer, we draw strength that can only come from one source. God always keeps His word. Let us share ours with Him.