What Praying Without Ceasing Looks Like

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The back of my legs cling to the vinyl as if they never want to leave. Cold chrome brushes by as my toe traces the maze of the asbestos linoleum hidden beneath. Colors are beginning to fade, I notice, but the sheen will always remain. She’ll make certain of that.

“We need to take care of what He’s given us,
so He knows how thankful we are.
Remember, He giveth, and taketh away.
Let’s make sure He only takes away what we don’t need.”

One could blindfold me and I would still know where I am. A familiarity I never want to take for granted even if it smells of raw onions, old coffee, and baked cinnamon. Here it makes no difference. I can breathe in the scent of safety and let it percolate.

My heart warms as she breezes by, focused on one thing only: keeping my hands busy. Her lips curl upwards as she finds a project “just for me”. And I happily play along, pretending the task is of utmost importance. With every chance, I never told her I would have been just as content watching her do her everyday. Even at the age of 8, I found my great-grandmother mesmerizing.

Francis Chan in Crazy Love wrote that the point of our life is to point to Him. In whatever we do, glorify Him.

She was a prime example.

It used to be a game I’d play. Trying to guess if she was talking to herself or to her Savior. I have to admit, the longer I played the game, the more I began to realize there was no wrong answer.

Friends, there was no mistaking it. If you had been blessed to meet my grandmother, you would have known it, too. She was simply a sinner saved by grace. And she managed to bring her Redeemer up in any conversation. Crazy how it always felt appropriate.

She lived and breathed Him. Making Him always relevant. Reachable even.

The greatest gifts she ever gave me came when I was away at college. I can’t even describe the feeling of seeing her formal cursive sprawled across an envelope, waiting for me in my mailbox. I would try to save the letters for my quiet time, because that’s where they always took me.

I remember one particular morning. I sat cross-legged on the commercial blue berber in our walk-in closet. My quiet place. Her card in hand. She shared about the weather, her latest project, and how the river outside her picture window looked that very instant. Every other sentence was filled with praise. Of thanks for her Savior and were written as if those sentences were for Him with me as a witness…

At the bottom of this card, she had sprawled out the reference:

I Thessalonians 5:16-18

And I immediately started digging to see what hidden message she had for me. I reached for as close to The King James as I had so I could hear her voice read these words:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,
in everything give thanks;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Never had this passage made more sense. For my great-grandmother made this dream a reality.

I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I’ve been plagued with fear from the command to pray without ceasing. I’ve gone through phases where I even deemed it impossible. Oh how soon we forget.

A few weeks back, while reading Henri Nouwen, the memories of my great-grandmother flooded in, taking residence in my heart of hearts. Because of this:

“We must make our lives into one unceasing prayer”
~ Henri Nouwen, Love in a Fearful Land

And I’m starting to see more clearly. The secret she shared with me 15 years ago.

Friends, this praying without ceasing business isn’t really a sacrificial action. It isn’t something only the “most Godly” are capable of. It’s a state of mind. One even I can strive to achieve.

We simply need to keep our eyes fixed on Him. Live like He’s in the room. That’s all we need to concern ourselves with. For if we do, our lives will be offered up as one unceasing prayer.

Would you like to know what’s helped me the most on my journey of trying to live it out?

THANKS. Giving it, sharing it, acknowledging it, offering it, allowing it to consume my thoughts. For when I do, I feel my heart being lifted up. Unceasingly. With my face fixed. Fearlessly.

Mind if I share some of my recent thanks with you?

  • God is generous even when we’re at our worst (Luke 6:30-40)
  • My great-grandmother’s handiwork on my feet
  • The noon bell. Small town feel in this large(er) city
  • Talking eye-to-eye with a kindred friend
  • Signs of fall
  • Hearing “Mom, let’s dance!” when a favorite worship song comes on
  • Sidewalk chalk art
  • Playing games as a family
  • How He pursues me. Relentlessly
  • Freshly laundered rugs

How about you, friend? Do you see praying without ceasing within your grasp? What do you think it takes? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Linking with MercyINK’s Heart and Home

So thrilled to be back in this community:

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61 thoughts on “What Praying Without Ceasing Looks Like

  1. Pictures with words…I can see myself sitting at the table with you smelling the cinnamon! Great pictures and even GREATER words! πŸ™‚

    And, you are right…it is even more in my grasp than I could ever have thought.

    • I am crazy blessed, Laurie. Trying not to dwell on the “if only’s” and savor the memories I have instead. more importantly, strive to understand the message she was sending me all along. If there ever was a woman of intention…

  2. Love this. I used to think you needed time and space and quiet, but it really only takes a breath. I heard a commercial this morning on the radio talking about having time for prayer. It went silent for about 20 seconds, then asked what did you just do with that time? You can pray.

    • YES–it only takes a breath. what a perfect way of explaining it, Amy. thank you for that! And I love that commercial…love it.

      P.S. my blog was down for awhile…so I spent time on your about posts. πŸ™‚

  3. Beautifully told. Your faithful heart so linked to the faithful heart of your great grandmother. What a lovely telling. I love the red chairs and the smells in her home. Aren’t we always profoundly marked by the smells of our childhood. Love you, friend. Are we the only 2 bloggers not going to allume?? Are you planning on going next year?

    • Thank you so much, friend. Oh yes…smells, colors, and textures are what I remember most…and music…the lighting… Oh it’s so fun reminiscing!
      You make me smile. I am not going to Allume but didn’t know you weren’t! I am making no plans as of yet…are you?

  4. Oh Nikki, this post truly blessed my heart. What a wonderful example your grandmother was for you. Praying without ceasing, and so filled with faith that the light of Christ spills over on all who are around you. Love your heart for God!
    Joy

    • So glad you captured what I was trying to get at through my nostalgia, Joy! What a legacy to leave…and I pray I can be but a glimmer of what my great-grandmother was. because even that would be bright. I’m certain. For she was a beacon…

      Hugs to you, friend!

  5. Nicky, this post is so beautiful and exciting. OK, first things first: I saw it go through my feeds on Facebook and wanted to read but with My Girl home with a sore throat today- all computer time was interruption time! So as I read this post I realized how much you are really going to love A Sudden Glory! It will resonate within you as it did me! As soon as I saw your comment today over at my place I thought…her prayer post….it prompted me back -I remembered I needed to finish it!

    • You’re so great, Dawn. So sorry to hear about the sore throat! Praying for quick healing and that your girl doesn’t share it… I checked our library and they don’t have that book, I’m so bummed. I’m going to request they get it cuz I really want to read it!

  6. Someday I hope to be like your grandmother. To give to my children and their children this gift of faith that I never knew in my family. Awesomeness.

    • Oh, me too. A gift of faith. It is the best gift, isn’t it…. I have much to learn but am so thankful she gave me a head start…
      We can do this, don’t you think? Okay, let’s be real. He can do this through us…I’m certain.

  7. what a sweet gift to have a grandma like that…it gives me something to aspire too:) I love Henry Nouwen quote…the more we abide in His love…the more we pray without ceasing…great post…blessings to you Nikki

    • Ro, it’s a sweet gift to have a grandma like you, too! Yes, I was incredibly blessed. and oh the abiding…you’re not going to let me forget about that πŸ˜‰ I’m glad because I think you’re right. they do go hand in hand, don’t they. Thank you, friend!

  8. Jumped over from Duane’s today.
    The way you painted your grandmother was so vivid. I love hearing the honor in your warm words.
    I, too, have struggled with ‘praying without ceasing’ as a command. But as I go, like your grandma, it seems to me that perhaps it is intended to be less a directive and more a *description.* That it’s just what life in the Spirit looks like.

    Thanks, Grandma, for the living example. Thanks, Nikki, for introducing her to us. πŸ™‚

    • Blessed to meet you today, Kelli! I enjoyed your post as well and hope we visit each other again soon. I like your idea of it being more of a description…I’m going to ponder that longer. thank you!

      (and for the record, Kelli, your URL is welcome here any time. please feel free)

      All for Him with hugs to you,
      Nikki

  9. Oh, Nikki, tears here now. You wrote my heart, here. To admire and learn to be like the ones who have gone before, who are battle-weary and tattered for the years–they know what it takes–they know so many of the secrets us young ones are struggling so hard for. I want this unceasing-prayer-like-Jesus-is-in-the-room-with-me-life. This was timely for me today–my heart aches for this and I’m so far away right now. By His grace. Blessings and love to you.

    • Friend, wish we could sit and cry together. My Grandma used to tell me her wrinkles were lines of wisdom and I believe her. Not because she told me that over and over, but because of the legacy she left me. What a blessing. and I’m striving….aching to see Him in the room with me.

      Much love and hugs to you, friend. And your post was altogether brilliant, but I think I told you that…

  10. Thanks for fleshing out this often confusing part of that passage. And I’m so glad to hear you talk of your grandmother’s example as you have. It’s so encouraging to hear that there still are “giants of the faith” who live among us today. Great post, Nikki!

  11. Hi Nikki,

    I was caught right up with you as you shuffled in your vinyl chair with your great-grandma, and as you sat low in carpet to read her notes. Thanks for letting me see that peak into her life, loving her Creator, and to ponder along with you what praying without ceasing looks like.

    Have a lovely Wednesday. I’m popping over from Scribing the Journey’s link up. Nice to meet you.

    Jennifer Dougan
    http://www.jenniferdougan.com

    • Jennifer, you don’t know what it means to me to see you got it. My getting lower (from chair to floor) to see more clearly. That just made my day. Thank you! And I’m so thrilled to meet you and I loved your place and hope we visit again soon.

      All for Him with hugs to you,
      Nikki

  12. I have my own living example of grace in my grandmother. Your story took me back to her house when I was little. No one showed me what unconditional love is more than her. That is a great legacy to pass down!
    For me praying without ceasing is a continual conversation that doesn’t stop at my quiet time. It’s all day sometimes in the middle of the night talking and praising to God. This way I feel connected to Him and that He’s not some far off God in the distance.
    Thanks for sharing the legacy left by your Grandmother, it was a blessing to read!

    • Oh you get it well, Alecia. It sounds like you live like He’s in the room. Something I strive for every day. and YES–praise! Praise is key…I’m convinced. Thanks for stopping by and sharing with me today. Great big hugs to you!

  13. My grandmother showed me Jesus without words. The way she started her day with a prayer book in her lap, rosary in her hands, smile on her face at first light of day. And she had vinyl chairs too. Thanks for taking me back to that beautiful place that saved my life.

    • You are so perceptive to see Him without words, Shelly. That astounds me… Me, I had to be drilled over and over with it until it sunk into my crevasses. And yet He still took the time to pursue the both of us. I pray I never get over it.

  14. what a blessing to be taught about prayer in such a tangible way! πŸ™‚ lately i’ve felt myself asking “why do i pray like that?” when my words become too “correct” and Church-y. Then i remember…He just wants to be a part of my day! thank you for sharing your memories of a woman of faith!

  15. What a beautiful post, Nikki!

    Your descriptions of your great-grandmother remind me of my own grandmother and grandfather, as well as my own mother.

    Mama used to burst out in songs of praise whenever she started getting frustrated. She was also prone, upon receiving bad news to say with a sigh, “Well…praise the Lord.”

    I used to wonder whether she was praising God, or just trying to change her own emotions.

    Eventually, I came to realize that the two are inseparable. Praising God in the midst of difficulty is an expression of faith that almost always results in a change of perspective.

    Thanks for the beautiful story and the reminder to “pray without ceasing”!

    • Oh my mom would burst into song often, too! So grateful to have picked up that trait from her…It has saved me many days.
      Love your thoughts on praising God and changing our emotions. They are inseparable. We get to choose how we feel and choosing to praise is a great testament of faith. Blessed by your words here today. Thank you for sharing!

  16. “And she managed to bring her Redeemer up in any conversation. Crazy how it always felt appropriate.”

    I want to be like your grandmother.

    Praying without ceasing seems like an impossible standard, but having that attitude of constant communion with God is a worthy goal to strive for.

    • A worthy goal and I’m learning to realize a necessary one, Lisa. It’s helping me to visualize Him in the room. I’m thinking I’m going to find it as I see Him in my day to day…Thanks for stopping by and sharing with me today, Lisa!

  17. Nikki…wow…so many thoughts as you share hear…

    First…I love to read about those who had grandmothers who showed Jesus well. And it makes me sad too. While my grandmothers served God, their own insecurities kept them from fully LIVING Jesus to us grandchildren. HOWEVER, it makes me thankful for my mom and my husband’s mom because my children will have the memories you describe in DOUBLE!

    Also…the way you explain pray without ceasing encourages me so much. In the last two years so much changed in my life as well as my relationship with God and knowing that just being connected to Him at any time of the day just knowing He was there without always having to be in formal prayer position helped me get through the worst of that season.

    • Oh the insecurities! Let’s you and me bust them out of the water. shall we? Let’s live like we have nothing to lose and all of Him to gain…

      Love your thoughts here. He isn’t a formal God at all, is He. He’s a conversationalist. Extremely relational. And just wants to be a part of us. I’m struggling to find the loophole to this scandalous love affair He offers every day, friend. Yes. I’m all in. and am thrilled to share the journey with you!

    • I don’t even know what to say you bless me so, friend. I wish we could both sit at her feet and soak it all in. She made it seem so easy, this scandalous love affair He offers us every day. Maybe I’m just trying too hard. Thinking I simply need to let go and let Him captivate me…

      Hugs to you and am so excited to read your book soon!!

      Thank you a thousand thanks for sharing my heart, Emily. Thank you.

  18. Absolutely beautiful tribute to your grandmother and to God…your post also made me think of Brother Lawrence’s, Practicing the Presence of God, where he explains so well about praying without ceasing…you also did an excellent job by pointing to your beloved grandmother…hugs to you, Nikki πŸ™‚

  19. Coming to you via WIP Weds…
    Hey there, gorgeous Nikkii! This was SUCH a beautiful tribute to your grandmother. It makes me really want to be a godly granny someday!

    I’ve always avoided that phrase, pray without ceasing. I have to admit, it still sounds to me rather difficult! It has really prompted me to pray this morning though, and it is good to remmeber not to neglect the important things. Thank you, lovely lady.

  20. What a wonderful gift, to watch and learn from her how to live out this faith. I like the way you described praying without ceasing. May we all talk with God like He is with us in the same room. Blessings!

  21. I firmly believe that the faithful prayers of my grandparents kept me from much physical, emotional, and spiritual harm during my teen years. And I am so very grateful for the faithful prayers of grandparents on both sides on behalf of my children. I loved all the physical detail in this, and that image of your great grandmother–not knowing where the talking to herself and to her Savior began and ended.

    Just finished Crazy Love too. Great stuff.

  22. I’m so thankful to have found you! This was such a profound post. Your grandmother bequeathing Jesus to you… the ultimate gift. The very idea that Jesus wants continual communion with me blows my mind. I’m just so thankful that He wants our lives to breath Him! Great job!

  23. Oh – how I love this – percolate – that word just reminds me of my grandmother – I cherish her letters she sent me while in college too. Funny, the older I get the more my handwriting looks like hers:)

    I don’t know if I do the praying without ceasing thing right – I don’t go into a prayer closet but as I come, go sit and stand – we spend time together – and there is give and take. I notice, too, that the older I get the more I quote scripture to my boys, tying everything to God – but maybe that is because I know more scripture because I used more scripture in a real way than in a memorizing way!

    I love your red vinyl, your grandmother story! What a beautiful heritage!

  24. Nikki, what you’ve said here is so timely for me. I so would love to have known your great-grandma:) As I navigate this intense week of helping my friend in her grief (and my own), I keep reminding myself to just keep praying–and that’s what Tobi specifically suggested too. Praise and thanksgiving is how I’ve maintained any sense of peace and perspective, and I want it to become like breathing, as THE lens through which I view everything! Thanks for this post:)

  25. My favorite part: When you realized there was no wrong answer as to whether your grandmother was talking to herself or God. I wanna be like that. When it’s all the same and tied up together. Thanks for linking up with WIP!

  26. What a beautiful account of remembering. Don’t you want to be like her, your Great-Grandmother? I do! Thank you for sharing what it means to you to pray without ceasing. I agree…. it is a state of mind. πŸ™‚

    Blessings,
    Kara

  27. Wow, Nikki – what a great (and popular) post!! What a special lady your grandmother was. Praying without ceasing: the constant awareness that He is with us and listening, and the constant communication with Him.

    Is anything better than that??

  28. This is so beautiful, Nikki! I loved it. “She lived and breathed Him. Making Him always relevant. Reachable even.” What a precious gift to be witness to such love. I love that verse… and also just happened to write about it for an upcoming post! πŸ™‚

  29. Pingback: Love Within Our Grasp « simplystriving

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