In the Message, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.” In the KJV, I Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
What about ‘Pray without ceasing’? This verse feels like what Brennan Manning talks about in his devotional book, Reflections for Ragamuffins, about a consistent focusing your attention on God while doing your daily activities. If you keep on practicing, for weeks or months, this discipline becomes a habit. Manning called it a ‘persistent turning to God’. He said Brother Lawrence called it, ‘the practice of the Presence of God.’
That, [persistent turning to God], doesn’t seem like work to me, or even a duty; but more like a privilege, an honor, an opportunity to draw closer to God in my spare moments; an act of love. Especially if it turns into a habit of drawing nearer to God so He’ll draw nearer to me.
Someone, not me, said that if you don’t spend a substantial amount of time with God (reading and studying the Bible; praying, meditating) at least four times a week, you just won’t develop the close, personal relationship with God that you (we all) want to develop. ‘Praying without ceasing’ is not a ‘religious’ practice. Though spending time with God every day is ideal, it is not something that has to be done exactly the same time, exactly the same place, in exactly the same position, every single time. You can think about God, sing God songs, talk to God out loud while you’re driving down the road, or waiting in traffic, or looking out the window at your office. (‘Course having a ‘standard’ time and place does have some benefit in answering our need for habit and routine)
Nowadays, people look like they’re talking to themselves all the time, when in fact they’re carrying on telephonic communication with someone while walking across the street or walking down the aisle in the grocery store. So now we don’t look like we’ve lost our minds if we talk to God out loud when we get good and ready. He’s already listening, and He may even be ready to give you an answer; whether you talk out loud, or say your say in your own heart and mind, while you’re waiting to get on the elevator, or sitting in the surgery waiting room, or broke down on the side of the highway. All these things allow for personal preference. You can even say Bible verses over in your mind as the Holy Spirit brings them to you. How cool is that!
Please do remember that praying is not just about asking for stuff; it is even more about coming to know God for who He is; to glorify God and enjoy His Presence forever. And maybe most of all it is about listening for what God has to tell you about what you’re worried about. He may not say it in an audible voice (though many people have heard Him speak), but if you’re Listening, you’ll know when He tells you something, audible or not.