Prayer With No Intermission
It seems impossible. Right in the middle of Paul’s admonitions to the Thessalonians he gives a simple, three-word command: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Most think this is unattainable, but these words form life’s most important door.
Prayer is being with Him. It implies humility, for real prayer is turning to a Source beyond yourself. It is the publican beating his chest and groaning for God. It is a solemn recognition that you need Someone…for fellowship, instruction, power, help, life.
All of life is a process by God to restore what was lost in Eden (and more). God is bringing us back to Himself. The whole work of Christ is aimed at this blessed reality. When we realize this and are drawn to Him by grace, we are saved from sin and death and hell.
But salvation is so much more than this legal pardon. It opens the way for the ongoing relationship. Prayer is the place where this unceasing exchange is designed to occur. It is to be the running dialogue with the God of the universe and His Son who loves us with perfect, unceasing passion. Prayer is not one of the things we “do” as a follower of Christ. It is a description of the atmosphere in which we can now live, the air we breathe, as Hallesby says.
We often shy away from prayer or ignore it altogether, but we must realize that prayer is not just about us. It is for Him. The Father wants to be with His children, just as you long to be with your earthly family.
And there are things that God plans to do through no other means but prayer. He reminds us of this continually in order to bring us back into constant communion with Him. He not only invites us, He makes outlandish promises: “Everything you pray for, believing you will receive!” “The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man will accomplish much!” It sounds too amazing to be true. It is the cry of a Father intent upon bringing us to Himself. It is the limitation He lovingly places on our life to make sure we live life together.
But prayer without ceasing? This is the fantastical part. We can imagine ourselves praying occasionally. Praying when there is an urgent need. Praying when we need Divine paramedics to rush to our aid. But…without ceasing? With no intermission?
God is talking all the time. He is never silent, but there are few who still their soul enough to hear Him.
“There is hardly ever a complete silence in our soul. God is whispering to us well nigh incessantly. Whenever the sounds of the world die out in the soul, or sink low, then we hear these whisperings of God. He is always whispering to us, only we do not always hear because of the noise, hurry, and distraction which life causes as it rushes on.” (Fredrick Faber)
All around you right now are radio waves filled with music and talk. It is loud and incessant, but you walk through your day, blissfully ignorant of this constant communication. If you turn on a radio receiver and dial into the right channel you immediately realize that this has been going on all along. It was there, waiting for you.
God is here. You can leave the receiver set on Him constantly and hear the dialogue of His love and encouragement and direction. To go there means you must lay down other voices and distractions and give Him your attention. You must do whatever is necessary to silence every idol—each loud, competing voice. He is there, but He will not be heard if you do not refuse the noise around you.
You must do whatever is necessary to listen. You must pray, not just with a bowed head or bended knee but with a heart that is unceasingly tuned to Him throughout every moment of the common day.
If you do, you will find the sweetest, most intimate words that a human can experience. You will be surprised at its refreshment and joy. Amazed at its consistency. Stunned that it is so personal. Humbled by the depth of His genuine love for you and the intimacies of that expression. Awed by how perfectly God knows exactly what you need to hear every second of the day. And you will wonder why you have waited so long to pray without ceasing.
About Bill Elliff:
Bill Elliff is the Directional Pastor of The Summit Church in North Little Rock, Arkansas, and also serves as one of the Founding Resource Leaders for The 6:4 Fellowship. His passion is to see both genuine revival and methodological renewal in the church—new wine and new wineskins. He is a frequent conference speaker, writer, and consultant to churches drawing from his 42+ years of pastoring and revival ministry.