February 28, 2024

In 2024, we will strive to become more like Jesus by rediscovering the ancient practices of prayer, study, sabbath, celebration, and many more. Our knowledge of scripture, coupled with studying how Jesus lived his life while on earth, will help us become people that overflow with the goodness of God. Wednesday email devotionals will highlight the practices that have been discussed on the previous Sunday.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.


1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


My wife and I just finished a documentary on Netflix called “The Last Dance.” The film is the story of Michael Jordan and his career, showing how he is the GOAT (the Greatest of All Time). There is no doubt Michael Jordan was the greatest. (In my humble opinion, Kobe Bryant comes second.) Throughout the documentary, you see the ups and downs of his career and the cost that comes with his greatness. One of Michael Jordan’s outstanding characteristics: he never ceased trying to be the best, not just at basketball but in whatever he did. There was never a moment when he stopped pursuing perfection and pushing others to do the same. Some would argue he was a bit of a tyrant to play with, not only because of his expectations of himself but also because of his expectations of others. That’s why the ’90s Bulls can be considered the greatest basketball team of all time. 


Michael Jordan never ceased trying to be his best. Paul encourages us to be the same when it comes to praying. He says in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to pray without ceasing. In other words, never stop praying. That seems like a rather difficult task, given the frantic pace of life and its demands. It also seems like praying continuously might turn us into robots walking around doing nothing but praying. Did Paul make a mistake when he wrote this text? Did he really mean to pray without ceasing? If he did, what on earth does that look like?


Henri Nouwen helps us to understand this his book Way of the Heart. He shares the story of a Russian peasant who went to church after Pentecost and heard in a sermon this same scripture to pray without ceasing. He wondered how it was possible and went from church to church, seeking an answer, but never found one that satisfied him. He eventually met a holy staretz (an elder or spiritual director who, when not in prayer or in voluntary seclusion, received visitors) who said, “Ceaseless interior prayer is a continual yearning of the human spirit towards God. To succeed in this consoling exercise we must pray more often to God to teach us to pray without ceasing. Pray more, and pray more fervently. It is prayer itself which will reveal to you how it can be achieved unceasingly; but it will take some time.” The staretz taught the peasant the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” which he repeated a thousand times on his journey. At one point, the peasant sensed the prayer went from his lips to his heart. He eventually gave up saying the prayer and instead listened to it from his heart. He says that the prayer became “the active presence of God’s Spirit guiding me through life.” It’s like practicing a basketball shot or play over and over again to the point that you could do it in your sleep. 


Paul didn’t make a mistake when he wrote this text. Our immersion into ceaseless prayer moves prayer from our minds and from our lips to our hearts. We simply, fervently, and continually pray, allowing the simplest prayers to permeate our hearts and our lives, allowing us to, in essence, become a walking prayer. So, go. Pray. Pray about everything and anything, long or short prayers, but do it continuously, without ceasing, so that the words can be intertwined and one with your heart and one with God. 

For Reflection

What steps can you take to begin to increase your prayer life?


Try praying Psalm 108:4 repeatedly this week. Pay attention to what the prayer and your heart might be saying to you. 


I would also encourage you to schedule specific times of the day to pray. You can try two times a day to begin with and as the week and month progress try four or five within a day or more. 


What do you desire most out of prayer and why? 


What words are you longing to hear from God in prayer?


Gracious Lord, grant us the endurance and desire to pray without ceasing. Allow our days and actions to be prayers unto you. May our lives reflect a life of prayer and a life connected to you, the vine. Lead us and guide us into your endless love and faithfulness. Amen.

Rev. Cody Jensen
Pastor for Become