Pray without ceasing – 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Meaning of 1 Thessalonians 5:17
The meaning of the verse, “Pray without ceasing” is that one should be in a constant “prayerful” state. A constant prayerful state means being in communication with God consistently. Paul also set an example of what it meant to pray without ceasing. He prayed when he was in prison; he prayed at midnight, morning, and evening. He also prayed at Malta, he prayed for Israel, and he prayed for the churches. The New Testament also has several examples where Jesus was found to be praying continuously in all circumstances. The act of prayer helps one to communicate and interact with God.
Interpretations of 1 Thessalonians 5:17
The verse of 1 Thessalonians 5:17 is often taught and misunderstood in churches and among Christians as the sentence contains only three words with no explanation. Here are a few examples.
Interpretation #1 God protects only those who pray
The interpretation of the verse “Pray without ceasing” is that God takes care of those who pray consistently. Prayer is called the medium of interaction with God, and without interaction, there is no way for God to help when one is in need or facing a difficult time. The reader believes that prayer is a clause or condition for one to be protected and cared for. Additionally, the act of prayer has been used as a weapon for God’s protection in the Bible in multiple instances. This can lead one to believe that without prayer, one can miss out on the protection of God.
Interpretation #2 Prayers must go on day and night
According to the reader, in this version, “Pray without ceasing” means that prayers are meant to be done every minute of the day. The term “without ceasing” means continuously and without stopping. Therefore, if one wants to be saved, protected, loved, and cared for by God, one has to pray every moment. Although a person cannot be on bent knees and closed eyes for most of the time, they can be in the mode of prayer during everything they do. Apostle Paul is a great example of praying all the time, as he did the same when he was thrown in prison.
Interpretation #3 Prayer keeps one from pain
In this interpretation of the verse, “Pray without ceasing”, the reader believes that prayer is the solution to avoid pain. Every person faces multiple challenges in their life, some of which could lead to pain and hurting. The pain could be mental, psychological, or physical, like getting into an accident, failing a subject, losing a loved one, waiting for a job, etc. All these instances can cause one to go through immense pain. Hence, when someone goes to God and prays about the situation that causes hurt, God can protect them from the pain. Hence, praying can be called a remedy for hurt and pain.
Interpretation #4 Prayer is a way to get blessings
In this interpretation of the verse, “Pray without ceasing”, the reader strongly believes that in order to receive blessings from God, prayer is the only source. Various verses and instances from Bible imply that prayer pleases God and inspires and motivates Him to bless his people abundantly. There are also instances in the Bible where a lack of prayer and submission to God led God to punish his people or withdraw from them. The requests include good education, a good career, an abundance of wealth, and happiness, so the person must pray continuously and consistently. Prayer can also be called insurance of blessings.
Interpretation #5 Prayer is a means to communicate with God
The final interpretation of the verse, “Pray without ceasing”, is that Apostle Paul wants Christians to communicate with God regularly, and it can be done only through prayer. The Bible contains numerous instances where people resorted to praying whenever they intended to communicate with God. Additionally, prayer was used as a medium not only to convey one’s wishes and desires but also to ask God for guidance or help regarding challenges in one’s life. The importance of praying frequently is also preached in churches and at homes extensively.
Historical background of 1 Thessalonians 5:17
The book of 1 Thessalonians was written by Apostle Paul to the church in Thessalonica, which he is believed to have started. It is assumed that it was written in Corinth around 50-51 CE. He wrote this first letter just months after leaving. The fifth chapter mainly focuses on Christ’s second coming and several final incitements and greetings. It is believed that he wrote the fifth chapter to encourage, strengthen and comfort the church. The seventeenth verse is an instruction from Paul to pray fervently and consistently. The book of Thessalonians is filled with instructions, and this verse is one of the instructions to live a Godly, righteous, and blessed life.
Literary Devices of 1 Thessalonians 5:17
1 Thessalonians is a short but significant verse often recited in Churches. It also consists of a few notable literary devices. Here are some examples.
Alliteration – While the King James version does not use any alliterative phrases, the amplified version has the sound of /p/ in repetition. For example, ‘be unceasing and persistent in prayer’.
Assonance – The verse with just three words has used vowel sounds in repetition. For example, the sound of /i/ in ‘Pray without ceasing’.
Pathos – The verse has likely used ‘Pathos’ as rhetoric to appeal to the reader’s emotion, especially sadness, and also highlight the importance of continuous prayers.
Hyperbole – The author has asked the readers to pray without ceasing, which means to pray all the time. It is impossible to pray throughout the day if one takes the verse as a literal meaning. This makes the verse a perfect example of hyperbole.