What Does it Mean to Pray Continually?

At the end of 1 Thessalonians Paul offers some final words of instruction for the church.  5:17 say that they are to pray continually.  This is bookended by “be joyful always” and “give thanks in all circumstances.”

So does always mean always?  Yes, it does, but we must understand that it doesn’t mean that every second of the day is devoted to these things.  To pray continually mean that we should be in an attitude of prayer at all times.  We have a narrow and incorrect view of what prayer means.  When we have prayer time at church 95% of it is devoted to asking for things.  This isn’t saying that we ask for selfish things as most of the time it is not even on our behalf but still the concept of prayer for many people is about asking God to answer a request.

This isn’t all that prayer is about however.  Prayer is communication with God.  Consider how you communicate with your friends and family members.  You talk about your day.  You say what makes you happy or sad or angry.  The same goes for having an attitude of prayer and praying continually.  Obviously we don’t need to tell God about what we had for lunch or how some equipment broke down at work.  But we can express our frustration with the way someone speaks to us.  We can ask for love and understanding toward that person.  Or we can ask that God would help them change their attitude.

Praying continually doesn’t mean that we focus on praying that it distracts us from something else.  We need to keep our focus on the road while we drive but we can still think about God along the way.  We can thank God for a beautiful view, pray for safety when the sun is glaring, or even sing a song of praise as we drive.  This is praying continually.