How do I pray without ceasing? Dr. Ligon Duncan shares practical tips to help Christians in their prayer life.
Praying without ceasing will not happen without practice and planning. All of us, I think, want to grow in our practice of prayer. I have a dear friend who often says, “If you want to humble a Christian, ask him about his prayer life.” I think most of us would love to grow in our practice of prayer.
Pay Attention to Praying Christians
One thing is, pay close attention when you come into contact with praying Christians. I know that my getting to know Mark Dever, the pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and my getting to know Doug Kelly, a professor of theology at RTS in Jackson and in Charlotte, had a profound effect on my prayer life because in those two men, I met men of prayer. They didn’t think about prayer. They didn’t just write about prayer. They pray. They had a robust, healthy practice of prayer. And being around people of prayer helps you to grow in prayer. You don’t just admire them, you seek to emulate them, and you learn from them in their practice of prayer. And I thank God every day for those two men who, because they lived a life of prayer, invited me into a better understanding of what it means to be a praying person.
Start Praying and Keep Praying
Here’s the other thing: pray. You’ve got to start praying. And if you don’t know how to start or how to get yourself started, open up the Bible to the Psalms and just start praying the Psalms right back to God as if they are your prayers that you wrote or thought up yourself. Take the Psalms, start praying the Bible back to God. That is one of the best ways to learn how to pray without ceasing. And it’s just to learn how to take the Bible and turn it back to God in prayer. Take the Psalms, start praying the Bible back to God.
Because for all of us, there are going to be days when we get up in the morning and we cannot get words out of our mouth. And there’ll be a variety of reasons for that. Sometimes there is a great burden on us. Sometimes there’s a great sadness on us. Sometimes we feel cold and distant from God. And in those times we just need to go to the Bible and start praying the Bible back to God until we can pray. The Puritans used to say, “Pray until you pray.” And by that they meant they understood that sometimes we just we can’t pray. We feel like our words are hitting the ceiling and they’re coming back to us. And what do you do? You take the Bible. You start praying and praying and praying it until you realize that you’re praying. You’re talking to God. Your soul is doing business with God.
Make a Plan
And then I would simply say this: you’re going to have to plan. You’re going to have to have regular practices that are woven into your life that allow you to pray regularly. Obviously, one of those things is learning to pray the first thing when you get up in the morning and the last thing before you go to bed at night, weaving prayer into the regular life of your family, not just around prayers at mealtimes, but family prayers. Sometimes I’ll take a book of prayers, and I will make it my practice to pray those prayers at different times of the day, especially starting first thing in the morning.
All of those things are good ways to learn how to pray without ceasing. Find good examples and learn from them, pray the Bible back to God, and then just plan. Plan to pray. All those things will help you pray without ceasing.