What does it mean to pray continually?

Have you ever wondered what the Apostle Paul meant in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 when he said to “pray continually?” The literal Greek translation means that we need to pray without intermission. How can this be possible if we have so many other responsibilities during the day?

According to Larson, in his commentary I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, p. 74), this is not a command about speaking non-stop prayers. Instead, it refers to having a consistent attitude of prayer or reverence before God. Larson adds that Christians should pray often and about many things, including requests, praise, and thanksgiving. Additionally, this means to never quit praying.

Multiple times in his writings, Paul uses this idea of praying regularly. Let’s look at some of these passages:

  • Without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers (Romans 1:9-10)
  • I give thanks to my God always for you (1 Cor. 1:4)
  • do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers (Eph. 1:16)
  • Praying at all times in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18)
  • We have not ceased to pray for you (Col. 1:9)
  • Continue steadfastly in prayer (Col. 4:2)
  • Always struggling on your behalf in his prayers (Col. 4:12)
  • Constantly mentioning you in our prayers (1 Thess. 1:2)
  • We also thank God constantly for this (1 Thess. 2:13)
  • As we pray most earnestly night and day (1 Thess. 3:10)
  • We always pray for you (2 Thess. 1:11)
  • I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day (2 Tim. 1:3)

The Apostle Paul makes it clear that as Christians we are to pray on a continual basis. In his book, A Praying Life, Paul Miller explains that this means we need a childlike dependence on God. This is why Jesus starts the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6 with the words “our Father.” It’s why His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane began with the word “Father.” It’s why His first word on the cross was calling out “Father.” Just as Jesus was dependent on God the Father, so we should be dependent on Him as well.

Miller goes on to say, “We don’t need self-discipline to pray continuously; we just need to be poor in spirit.” To be poor in spirit means to be repentant and humble, totally dependent on God. This character trait echoes what the Psalmist said, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:17).”

As we pray continuously in our lives, we will learn what the Apostle Paul meant in Philippians 4:6-7 when he said that we will have a peace that passes all understanding. Becoming completely dependent on God will allow us to lay down our tendency to try to control everything in life, and instead bring our anxieties and problems to God in prayer. As this happens, we shift from worry to watching God weave His patterns in the story of our lives.

At Sync with God, we know how important it is to pray. In fact, our first value is prayer! We would love for you to become a prayer partner with us. Our website has a special page dedicated for prayer partners to be updated on how they can pray for our ministry. Sign up today!