When I was first born-again 20 years ago, I remember reading the phrase “pray without ceasing” in one of Paul’s letters and wondering how someone could possibly do that. At the time, prayer for me (because I was a Catholic) meant getting down on my knees and repeating vain repetitions that I either memorized, like the “Our Father” and “Hail Mary”, or read straight from a prayer book or prayer card, like a script. I could not understand how people would be able to be down on their knees reciting the Our Father or Hail Mary 24/7 and still carry out their daily duties, but I gave it my best shot. I bought rosary beads, chaplets, and any other prayer beads I could find at the Catholic store and started the daily recitations on my knees. Morning, noon and night, at pre-set times, you could find me in my room, mumbling vain repetitions and counting out beads as eagerly as Matthew had counted coins at his tax collector job before being sprung by Jesus.
After three and a half years of doing this nonsense and thinking I was praying, God showed me the truth about Catholicism (that it’s a demon-inspired cult) and I left that church forever. I asked the Catholic administration in the Toronto archdiocese to excommunicate me, but I was told that I couldn’t ask for it; it would have to be bestowed. So I’m working on that. lol
The day I left Catholicism, I started reading the Old Testament cover to cover. I had been reading the New Testament from the day I was born-again, but the Old Testament had been spoon-fed to me in single sentences during the Catholic masses I attended twice or sometimes three times a day, and I, like most Catholics, mistakenly had thought that was enough. In reading the Old Testament for myself (rather than nibbling on sanitized and misapplied snippets taken out of context), I came to realize that nearly everything the Catholic church does and teaches its adherents to do was prohibited to the Hebrews by God. This is why the Catholic church discourages people from reading the Bible and in fact for centuries had produced copies of the Bible only in Greek and Latin to prevent most Catholics from being able to read it. That in in itself – even without the lies about God and and Jesus that are taught as “catechism” – is enough to discredit Catholicism as coming from God.
In any case, having left the cold clutches of that false church, I finally started to get to know God not as an entity that lives in a box at the side of the altar but as my Dad who, together with Jesus, is always with me through God’s Holy Spirit. That, as we know from John, is Jesus’ promise to his followers. In getting to know God as my Dad and Jesus as my brother and best friend, I came to understand that prayer doesn’t mean repeating someone else’s words over and over and over but simply TALKING AND HANGING OUT WITH GOD AND JESUS, through God’s Spirit.
Now Paul’s advice to “pray without ceasing” started to make sense. The day I left Catholicism I had trashed all my prayer beads and prayer cards along with all the other Catholic paraphernalia I had bought over the years, so I started my “Dear God” phase empty-handed. I just talked to God like I would anyone else, only a lot more formally, politely, and on my knees. The funny thing is, God (the source of all humor) started making jokes about my always being on my knees and positioning my hands just so when I talked to him, so I began instead to talk to him wherever I happened to be at the time, whether walking along the street or sitting on a bus or lying in bed at night. My posture and hand positions didn’t matter; only my sincerity mattered.
As the years passed, I learned to be aware of God’s and Jesus’ constant presence through God’s Spirit. We now talk and hang out all the time. They are always with me. This is the promise given to us by Jesus the night before he was glorified. In knowing they are always with me and that I can get their advice on everything all the time, life on Earth has become not only monumentally easier but full of joy in even the most mundane of tasks. I cannot imagine still being a Christian if I hadn’t learned what Paul actually meant by “pray without ceasing”.
All of us who are born-again and following Jesus need to take Paul’s advice to pray without ceasing. In other words – we need to be conscious of the constant presence of God and Jesus through God’s Holy Spirit. In being aware of their presence, we need to talk to them unfeignedly, heart to heart, and always do what they advise. There is no other way we’ll be able to “endure to the end”, which Jesus told us we must do if we are to be saved.