How often should we pray?

The apostle Paul’s answer was, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5.16-18). The phrase “without ceasing” refers to a settled habit or an unvarying practice or a regular routine.

But even in the best of circumstances, that can be a challenge. One woman said, “…since I started managing a job, three young children, and a husband who works evenings, if anything my prayer life had gone downhill. I pray for a few moments in the morning; I pray when I first get to my desk at the office for a few minutes as I wait for the electric kettle to boil water for tea; I pray in snatches while driving or stirring supper on the stove or waiting for programs to load on the computer; and sometimes on a good day, I pray for a few brief moments before I crawl into bed.” (Debra Rienstra, in Philip Yancy, Prayer, 167)

Sound familiar?

It would be helpful to remember that the Bible doesn’t give a set pattern for prayer.

  • The psalmist said, “Seven times a day I praise you” (Psalm 119.164).
  • Daniel prayed three times daily in the direction of Jerusalem (Daniel 6.10).
  • Nehemiah prayed silently and briefly as he made a request of the king (Nehemiah 2.4).
  • Jesus resorted to prayer often (Luke 5.16), sometimes even all night (Luke 6.12).
  • At Gethsemane, Jesus prayed a fervent, but apparently short prayer, interrupted by the snores of his companions and the noise of the betrayer (Matthew 26.36-47).

But there’s still the issue of praying without ceasing. What does that mean?

First, it means we must be willing to pray. Some think that God won’t hear them, orthat their issues are too trivial, or that they’ll figure it out on their own. But Peter saidwe’re to cast all our anxieties on him because he cares for us (1 Peter 5.7).

Second, it means we believe that prayer works. Some think that prayer doesn’t work,or it doesn’t matter, or it just doesn’t change anything. But James said, “the effective,fervent prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5.16b).

Third, it means that we look for and create opportunities to pray. We seize everyopportunity, whether short or long, noisy or quiet, focused or distracted. We pray between tasks. We pray in transit. We pray in the moment. We pray in our heads. We pray as soon we see the Facebook request. We pray at our desks, in our cars, on the couch, in the shower, in bed. We pray while we’re dressing, while we’re gardening, while we’re cooking, while we’re walking, and while we’re relaxing.

In other words, we pray without ceasing.