“We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. “ ( 1 Thessalonians 1: 2b-3 [Emphasis mine])
When I was a young Christian, I heard it said one should pray without ceasing. I had to wonder, does that mean a good Christian should always be praying, along with anything else he or she might be doing? If so, it seemed like being a good Christian was a lot harder than I thought.
I wonder if Albert Barnes was given that impression as a child. In his commentary on this passage he says of Paul’s professed diligence in prayer, “This is not to be understood literally, but it is language such as we use respecting anything that interests us much. It is constantly in our mind. Such an interest the apostle had in the churches which he had established.“ And even at this, I think Barnes is overstating the case slightly.
I know from having spiritual directees and clients I counseled, I did not think of them constantly, but many things would bring them to mind, and when that happened I would think of them and pray for them remembering their strengths and their challenges. And it was not just directees and clients that I would pray for. It was also family and friends, and those people’s family and friends, and then whole networks of people. I heard of one prayer warrior who kept a prayer diary, and would simply lift up the diary and say, “all the people listed here Lord, bless them, support them” etc. I admit having done that myself a time or two.
“Praying without ceasing” does not mean always having a prayer as background to all other things. It means as the day goes by allowing any and everything in one’s day lead one to prayer; that there is not one event or person that is not prayed about. The prayer warrior never considers themselves “prayed out”, but is moved to pray whatever the circumstances.
Paul says later in 1 Thessalonians (chapter 5 verse 17) to pray continually. I would imagine he would say as he prays for the Thessalonians and all the other churches that were under his care.
May you seeker pray for those things and people who are under your care, and may you be prayed for with the diligence of Paul. Selah!