Pray without Ceasing
Since, then, we are thus, by the inevitable law of our being, surrendered unreservedly to the unsleeping observation of the Divinity, we cannot shut our eyes to the conclusion, that, every desire of the human mind, is a prayer uttered to God and registered in Heaven. [Ralph Waldo Emerson, in Ralph Waldo Emerson: Preacher and Lecturer by Lloyd Earl Rohler, p. 77].
Our understanding of our Creator defines the nature of our prayers. To pray without ceasing presupposes certain Divine attributes which facilitate ceaseless prayer, such as limitless access to an omnipresent, benevolent God.
I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. [Psalm 34:1, NLT].
While the God-consciousness of a faithful believer is the personal element of praying without ceasing, the Divine attributes are the eternal, invariable absolutes that permit our state of constant trust, gratitude and dependence.
Allah [God], responds to the plea of those who plead to Him and helps them…. He even gives prior to being asked and accepts even prior to being pleaded. He knows the need of those who are in need before they pray Him, and He, since eternity, knows all their needs, so He has provided them with means to satisfy all their needs … Since time immemorial, He knew in advance what they needed. He goes to the rescue of those who are in dire need of help, and He does not disappoint anyone who pleads to Him. [The Ninety Nine Attributes of Allah, #45].
God’s mercy has provided an irrevocable license permitting all to approach Him. Our praying has no restrictions. We can pray to God at any time, place or condition, for as long as we want. We pray with confidence that God is always available, that we can call on Him without an appointment, and that He will respond.
That God is everywhere allows us to pray in any situation, any place. We are at all times in the presence of the One whom we desire to touch, to reach, in prayer. We don’t have to go looking for God, as if God were somehow missing from our lives. [William H. Shannon].
The unity of our Creator means that we don’t distribute our prayers among different divinities. We don’t pray to one god for health, another for safety, another for prosperity, etc.
But the god of you all is the One God: there is no god but He: all things He comprehends in His knowledge. [Quran 20:98].
God is not only Creator, but also Provider, Nourisher and Sustainer. We are created in a constant state of need and His sustenance is continuous, never depleted.
There is no creature moving on earth except that its sustenance depends on Allah. [Quran 11:6].
Our requirements for survival are provided for us, many of them without us even being aware of them. The autonomic nervous system, for example, acts largely unconsciously, regulating bodily functions such as our heart rate, digestion and respiration. Hold your breath for a couple of minutes and reflect on your vulnerable condition and unceasing dependence.
What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift? [1 Corinthians 4:7].
Our prayers are responses to conditions, events and circumstances that produce profound emotions such as fear, remorse, oppression, etc. We pray not in despair, but in confidence that we can rely on God’s complete power, mercy and justice for security, peace and justice.
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. [2 Peter 1:3].
When we pray, our mental state is one of hope, trust and obedience. Maintaining this consciousness in our daily affairs, this awareness of our dependence on the Creator, provides a continuing intimacy with God that defines a life of unceasing prayer.
I believe that God both wills and is able to bring good out of everything, even the worst. For this He needs people who are prepared to allow everything to be served for the best. I believe that in every crisis God wants to provide us with as much power of resistance as we need. But God never gives it in advance so that we will entrust ourselves. I believe that even our mistakes and wrongdoing are not fruitless and that it is no more difficult for God to cope with them than with our presumed good deeds. I believe that God is no “timeless fate” but, rather, that he waits upon and responds to our sincere prayer and responsible deeds. [Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters Papers from Prison].
That God is “All-knowing” means that our thoughts, in fact, are prayers when immersed in the Divine Reality. God does not need our prayer to become cognizant of our condition. It is we that need to pray.
ALL THAT IS in the heavens and on earth extols God’s limitless glory: for He alone is almighty, truly wise! His is the dominion over the heavens and the earth; He grants life and deals death; and He has the power to will anything. He is the First and the Last, and the Outward as well as the Inward: and He has full knowledge of everything. [Quran 57:1-3].
That God is all-seeing means that when our grief is reflected in tears, when our countenance shows our pain, when our bowed head reveals our distress, indeed, we are praying and God is seeing us.
O our Sustainer! Thou truly knowest all that we may hide [in our hearts] as well as all that we bring into the open: for nothing whatever, be it on earth or in heaven, remains hidden from God. [Quran 14:38].
With God always aware of our thoughts, it is we who must remain aware. As with His omnipresence, it is we that forget that God is present with us at all times and knows our hearts. Our remembrance reestablishes the connection, bringing the Divine into focus, though He was always with us.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. [Psalm 39:2-4 (ESV)].
That God is All-hearing means that, in our daily life, the softest whisper, or a single word, or just an exclamation of anguish or pain, can convey more longing than volumes of textbook prayers.
Say: “My Lord knoweth (every) word (spoken) in the heavens and on earth: He is the One that heareth and knoweth (all things).” [Quran 21:4].