How to Be in Continual Prayer, Without Babbling

I have been asked numerous times about a seeming contradiction in the Bible. Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, wrote that we are to “pray about everything” (Philippians 4:6), “pray continually”, (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and “be in constant prayer” (Romans 12:12).  Paul seems to have believed that something in us could live in a state of continual prayer and that we should keep talking repeatedly to God.

Here’s where the seeming contradiction comes in the Bible to some people.  In Matthew 6:7-8 Jesus says, “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered only by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” Jesus almost appears to be telling the reader NOT to pray continually.

The verses do not contradict each other.  We must consider these verses in the context of the entirety of Scripture. Throughout the Bible we realize that God is always more concerned about the heart of a matter than He is actions we take (1 Samuel 16:7), so it helps if we examine this subject with that understanding.

When Jesus said not to babble in prayer, because God already knows our needs, He was speaking to people who tried to impress others with their flowery words.  That is not what Paul is suggesting to us in his writings.

Paul’s encouragement for continual prayer, in action at least, is obviously not even possible. Some people have a hard time walking and chewing gum at the same time.  Expecting people to pray while they do anything else is a challenge. Paul is not referring to an action as much as he is an attitude. He’s encouraging our heart to be in a continual spirit of prayer; a constant journey of seeking our Father’s will and communing with our Heavenly Daddy.

This is made possible with the help of God’s Spirit, who “intercedes for us”. If our heart is firmly set on Christ, we can be “continually praying”.   If we go to the marketplace, Christ goes with us in prayer. If we are driving a car, Christ is with us in prayer. If we read a book to our children, if Christ is in our heart, we can be in an attitude of prayer, because God’s Spirit intercedes for our spirit.

Put your heart and mind firmly on Christ today and you will continue to live in a spirit of prayer.

Do you have any specific prayer requests? Leave them here.  I’m finding my readers really do pray for others.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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22 thoughts on “How to Be in Continual Prayer, Without Babbling

  1. God's been showing me about the ATTITUDE of prayer in recent years. I have come to even cease praying in a restaurant before a mealtime sometimes (*gasp!*) because it seems like overkill when I've been in the attitude of prayer all day. Seems like all I'm doing is showing others around me that I pray.

    It's easy to reduce prayer time to a morning routine. It's much harder to maintain an attitude of prayer. This kind of attitude requires brokenness and dependency – 2 things that are counter-culture to the American way.

    Thanks for the post of clarification/confirmation.

  2. I can remember a long time ago, when I was just beginning my walk with God through time, that my reaction to continuous prayer was "How in the world can I do that?" I couldn't pray 15 minutes without my mind wandering. But, as I pressed on and became engrossed in finding meaning in the Bible, my prayers became meaningful and longer. Finally, I reached a point where I just climbed up on the couch and snuggled between my Papa Father and my big brother, Jesus Christ. That is where I live–no matter what I'm doing, I have a continual conversation with God. We share everything in my life.

    I believe that as we mature in the Lord, praying becomes much easier. Just think about the differences in the conversations of a parent with his/her child as the child grows. A toddler won't sit still for long at all, a grade schooler can give a parent a little more attention, a teen can have some deep conversations if they're about something interesting, and an adult child can talk to a parent as friend-to-friend. So, I don't think we should stress out about prayer, and just make our conversations with God, the real thing.

  3. This was good to read. My prayer requests; *raising the support for my summer mission project trip that I have an oppportunity to go on this Summer. I am trusting and believing God is going to provide the funds. * As I finish college in two weeks. I will be heading back home and I am worried that I am going to fall in the traps because I am not going to have a good support system or as strong of Godly people influence around me like I do here at school. I know I have to be proactive in what I do to keep this from happen,also that I do well on my finals and I am not stresses over them.. * pray for my parents and Sister they are going through some serious stuff, that was brought to my attention on Monday plus their not saved and I want them to come to know our Heavenly Father, but I dont want what they are dealing with bring me down. If you can remember these in ur prayers it would be great. Thank you. God Bless You!!

  4. Speaking personally, this is a timely article. I've taken up a "Prayer Experiment" (click on my name), based loosely on Frank Laubach's "game with minutes," in which I'm trying to learn to pray continuously – shooting for once a minute – and it ain't easy, but I'm encouraged to hear that other people (like Laubach) have learned to do it, and they were completely changed by the process.

    However, as you point out, this can wind up with us just babbling to God, but it doesn't have to be that way, especially when the continuous prayer is not us asking for things, but just conversing with God like we'd converse with anyone else (well, almost – this is GOD, after all). The many words, in this case, aren't an attempt to motivate God, but just because it's a joy to know that God is here, and He's listening.

      • Heh…I *hope* it is a great resource. I have posted a link there to this article (which IS a great resource)

        My request: I am on staff at a church where I feel that we have fallen into a rut. We're maintaining, but not growing. We will be having a big meeting tomorrow night to discuss this, and the growth we're looking for is new believers, not the church shell game. Please pray for discernment, faith, courage, and boldness. We need to be guided by the Spirit, not man's ideas.

        • I agree…the prayer experiment is one of the best resources I've ever read. Unbelievably difficult but unequaled in reward. I believe the intent is to live in an active sense of worshipful adoration and consultation–to attempt not to have a single minute of the day not entwined with a sense of God's omnipresence. It was also the encouragement of Father Laurence. In essence, rather than think your own thoughts in dialogue with yourself, including and conversing with the Father instead.

          Love it! Love doing it! Can't say that I have in any way or at any time succeeded, but "this one thing I do: forgetting the past, I press on to the mark of the high calling of God…"

          I will be praying for your church too Chris.

          • Oh wow. You don't know how encouraging that is, Tricia. My goal is not for ME to have lots of readers, but for lots of people to be encouraged to pray more, and I'm thrilled to know that it's encouraging you!

            And thanks for your prayers about the church too.

          • Oh wow. You don't know how encouraging that is, Tricia. My goal is not for ME to have lots of readers, but for lots of people to be encouraged to pray more, and I'm thrilled to know that it's encouraging you!

            And thanks for your prayers about the church too.

  5. There are two details here that need to be brought forth. First, prayer isn't just talk. Second, prayer isn't just "gimme" or even "give them."

    My skin crawls when I hear somebody mention they will "say a prayer" for me or anyone else. Thanks, but no thanks. I need no mystic incantation that will force the powers of the universe to converge on a person or a request. I don't need a poem or writing someone else did that sounds cool. All I need is a "daddy, please help." Sometimes the most sincere prayer for oneself is this: "HELP ME!" For that matter, we don't always get the time to say even that. It can certainly come up in the mind & heart, though.

    Second, prayer is conversation. It can be like a blog post and a comment, but it can (and should) also be a two-way dialog. Listening is part of prayer, and that's something we can do continually, especially in those immediate-moment needs.

    As far as prayer requests, I would like folks to pray for me. I struggle with depression, headaches that can cause bipolar-like symptoms, an unbalanced sense of "self-worth" (and, please, I know in my head what I'm worth to God, and that my best is like filthy rags … if you don't have an idea of what I'm talking about, don't bother with that bit), symptoms that resemble Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (but with no identifiable trauma involved), burnout (as defined in Anne Jackson's seminal text, Mad Church Disease: Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic), and a few other things I'm missing due to lack of time (which is stressing). I have been unable to attend church the past few Sunday mornings because of a lack of energy, probably coming from all of these. I also am on way too many medications for hypertension, diabetes (non-insulin dependent), plus an anti-depressant (which I am assuming is a "medical necessity" as insulin would be to an insulin-dependent diabetic), which may contribute to the lack of energy.
    Twitter: joe_sewell

    • Thanks you for leaving this comment. I have worked with so many battling depression. I’ve been close many times to what to believe would be clinical depression. Certainly will pray for you.

      I agree totally with your thoughts on prayer

    • Will pray. Been there…I know exactly what you are describing. I've dealt with the same symptoms for 30 years now.

      We just found out that my depression was due to a genetic issue with how my body processes Folic Acid and the treatment has made a big change. It may be years before we address all the issues that the depression caused, but we are on the road.

      In the meantime, as you wait for your breakthrough, be patient and kind to yourself–as patient and kind as our Father himself is. Give yourself permission to be in pain, but give yourself permission to be strong, enduring and happy too at the times you find it possible. Jesus was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." There's nothing wrong with sorrow. There's nothing wrong with joy. All can be an attitude of worship for those who choose to lay it before the Father's feet.

  6. I find it useful to stop and pray for things as they occur to me – having my heart always open to the opportunity to pray.

    Right now, I'm seeking guidance for the future of the church I serve and where and how we really are a community of hope. We are looking at starting a new service and need the people resources – worship leader and team – to really make this happen. My wife Kathy and I are also preparing to go to Brazil – to the area hit hard by the recent rain/floods and we are praying for the money needed to make the trip and to cover some of the needs in Brazil.

    • Great reminder. I'll be praying for your serve opportunities and volunteers, and for you and your wife in Brazil. I have been 10 times and those trips changed my life. I had to trust God to provide for each one. Praying for God's people to supply your needs.