Praying Always (Part 5): Tozer on Continual Communion in Prayer

A.W. Tozer’s name is well-known by Evangelicals around the world today. Yet, Tozer wasn’t a celebrity pastor, constantly making the rounds of the conference circuit. First and foremost, Tozer was a man who loved to spend time with God in prayer and meditation. And he was a man who believed strongly in the importance of unceasing prayer.

Tozer explained what it means to pray without ceasing by drawing on definition from Dr Max Reich: ‘Praying without ceasing [is] a continual, humble communion with God, day and night, under all circumstances, the pouring out of my heart to God in continual unbroken fellowship.’ (from Tozer’s article ‘The Church is on a Stormy Sea’, in Faith Beyond Reason).

But, if we’re to know this continual communion with God in prayer, then we need to be aware of, and deal with, the problem of distraction:

Whatever excites the curiosity, scatters the thoughts, disquiets the heart, absorbs the interests or shifts our life focus from the kingdom of God within us to the world around us—that is a distraction; and the world is full of them. … Distractions must be conquered or they will conquer us. So let us cultivate simplicity; let us want fewer things; let us walk in the Spirit; let us fill our minds with the word of God and our hearts with praise. In that way we can live in peace even in such a distraught world as this. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” (The Set of the Sail, 117-119)

It is only with such peace from Christ that we know what Tozer calls ‘the power of silence’:

We must never forget that the highest kind of prayer is never the making of requests. Prayer at its holiest moment is the entering into God to a place of such blessed union as makes miracles seem tame and remarkable answers to prayer appear something very far short of wonderful by comparison. Holy men of soberer and quieter times than ours knew well the power of silence. ... The heart seldom gets hot while the mouth is open. A closed mouth before God and a silent heart are indispensable for the reception of certain kinds of truth. No man is qualified to speak who has not first listened. (The Set of the Sail, pp.14-15)

Tozer explains that such silent prayer in holy wonder before the Lord is connected to meditation on the Scriptures, for it is ‘long periods of Bible meditation [which] will purify our gaze and direct it’ (The Pursuit of God, pp.99-10). Through such prayer and meditation, believers can receive ‘the inward habit of beholding God. A new set of eyes (so to speak) will develop within us enabling us to be looking at God while our outward eyes are seeing the scenes of this passing world’ (ibid, p.100). 

When the habit of inwardly gazing Godward becomes fixed within us, we shall be ushered onto a new level of spiritual life more in keeping with the promises of God and the mood of the New Testament. The Triune God will be our dwelling place even while our feet walk the low road of simple duty here among men. We will have found life’s summum bonum indeed. (ibid, p.101)

For Tozer, to pray without ceasing means that ‘prayer at its best is the expression of the total life’ (The Root of the Righteous, p.97). Yet such a life isn’t possible by our great efforts, but only through the grace of the Holy Spirit. ‘Such prayer can only be the result of a life lived in the Spirit’ (ibid). 

As we go on into God we shall see the excellency of the life of constant communion where all thoughts and acts are prayers, and the entire life becomes one holy sacrifice of praise and worship. (ibid, p.98)

The possibility and power for such a life of unceasing prayer are found only through the cross of Christ. As Tozer tells us, it is only ‘the redemption in Christ Jesus’ which has such ‘power to enable us to live in a state of purity and love where our whole life will be a prayer,’ and, as a result, the ‘individual acts of prayer which spring out of that kind of total living will have about them a wondrous power’ (ibid, p.99).

You can read the previous posts in this series here: