Taking this verse very literally it would seem to mean that we are to always be in a state of perpetual prayer. Some might interpret “pray without ceasing” to mean “never cease praying.” If that is the case, we would be like the Apostle James of whom it is said that he prayed so much that he developed knees like a camel. If we are to literally never cease praying, then how could we work our jobs, eat, sleep or communicate with others.
For example, right now I am concentrating on communicating with you. My attention is focused on writing this devotional for you, so how I can I at the same time speak to God? How could I obey God’s command to “preach the Word” and to “pray without ceasing” at the same time? So there must be another meaning.
Many have suggested that to “pray without ceasing” means having a constant attitude of prayer. That may well be part of what Paul means here. In the first century, Jews had specific times of day when they were to pray. The Apostle may be saying to the Thessalonians, “Don’t just pray during legalistic time slots, always be in an attitude of perpetual prayer.”
How many of you use the internet regularly? Many of us. We check our email and search for information daily. Our computers are often “on line.” They are hooked into the internet so that we can communicate. If you use a wireless connection, you are on line all the time. So one way of interpreting verse 17, is to say that, we must have a constant connection with God; we must always be “on line,” always at some level in communion with Him. So, are you connected? Are you “on line?”