The apostle Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians recorded in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 commanded them to “Pray without ceasing” or at least that is the way it reads in most of the English translations. But I am sure that you have wondered what it really does mean. Is Paul directing us to pray 24 hours a day 7 days a week continuously? Or is Paul saying that we do not need any specific rules for prayer frequency but a continual attitude of prayer is enough? I am concerned that some of the interpretations have led to lack of discipline and lack of power in our prayer lives and so I am prompted by the Ruach haKodesh/Holy Spirit to address this issue.
The Authority of Paul
Because of the terms handed down to us such as “Old Testament” and “New Testament” instead of the more correct terms “Old Covenant” and “Revised Covenant” we may be tempted to think that some of the writers in the revised covenant are presenting something new if it is not familiar to us, or that the writer is eliminating something from the “Old Testament.” This is particularly true of Paul who is very precise in his choice of words. Remember his words to Timothy, “..all scripture is given by inspiration of God (God breathed) and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God might be perfect (complete), thoroughly (completely) furnished unto all good works…” II Timothy 3:16, 17. Let us remember that when Paul spoke these words there were no “New Testament” scripture, he was referring to the Old Covenant.
This may be Greek to us
The words "pray always" are power packed words and to really understand them we need to understand the grammatical context of the original language in which it was spoken. I confess that I am not a Greek scholar, so I am grateful to Pastor Gerry of Outcast Ministries International for the Greek grammar explanation.
The two words that are used, one is a verb, an action (pray) and the other is an adverb telling us how to carry out the action.
Verbs have “voice”, “tense”’ and “mood” and in this case, Paul uses present tense, middle voice and imperative mood. The middle voice means that the subject (you the reader) participates in the result of the action (prayer).
The present tense application is to be taken in its usual sense in that it is current action. The mood is what is known as imperative, which means that it is a command from an authority and it is not just a suggestion or an option.
Explanation of the middle voice is difficult since we do not have an equivalent in English. The best explanation is that you produce an action and you participate in the result. So in the case of prayer when you do the act of prayer you also participate in the certain results.
The adverb that Paul uses regarding how the prayer is to be performed is also very forceful and is full of imagery. The adverb is derived from a Greek medical term that had evolved from Egyptian medicine. The word “Adialeiptos” which, in today’s interpretation, is referred to as a ”Hacking Cough”. Have you ever had a hacking cough and noticed how frequently it returned even after taking cough suppressants?
I thank pastor Gerry for his expanded translation of what Paul actually said as follows: “…I command you to remain in a prayerful state and be continually praying with the frequency of a hacking cough…so that you will receive and participate in its assured result” (http://outcastministries.com/outcastministries_011.htm).
So what does it all mean for us today?
So is Paul saying that we should abandon the discipline of regular prayer throughout the day as exemplified by the patriarchs of the Old Covenant? Paul is showing us how imperative it is, that we follow his command as the Day of Yah approaches, and as the battle with our soul’s enemy increases. Be mindful that “…Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” 1 Peter 5:8. The imperative is that our prayers be even more frequent and fervent than the prayers of the patriarchs and that in so doing we achieve the continuous prayerful state and results in which we will be participants.
Please pass this article on prayer to someone whom you believe could benefit.