‘Pray without ceasing’
(1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Roger Carswell says, ‘There is more wisdom found in the three words of verse 17 than in all the words of the world’s philosophers.’
What a sentence. I take it to mean that to live well you don’t need to go any further than to put these three words into practise, ‘Pray without ceasing’.
But how do we do that? It certainly does not mean that we live in one long daily devotion – shut in our rooms with our Bibles open and our heads down.
Please don’t get me wrong. Daily devotions are a good idea.
- They root us each day in the truths of God’s word.
- They help us to rejoice in God.
- They help us to prioritise and remember what is most important.
- They help us to take up our cross daily and follow Jesus.
- And done with a genuine desire to please the Lord and seek his face, they bring much glory to God.
What is more, there is biblical precedent for them.
The Scriptures are full of exhortations to the believer to read God’s word and meditate on it (Psalm 1; 19; 119), as well as examples of people seeking God’s face regularly in prayer.
Daniel is a prime example. Each day, three times a day, he prayed. Our Lord also kept a regular pattern of prayer.
Mark 1:35, ‘Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.’
Assuming that believers will also make time for prayer he instructs us on what to do when we do pray, ‘But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.’ (Matthew 6:6)
Taking deliberate time out to read the Scriptures and pray is right and good. But praying without ceasing is something more.
Praying without ceasing means always being in a place where we can seek God’s face.
By ‘place’ I don’t mean somewhere quiet and secluded. We are not meant to spend our lives behind a closed door praying. By ‘place’ I mean a frame of mind that won’t prohibit prayer. What will prohibit prayer?
- Nurturing sinful thoughts will prohibit prayer.
- Giving into temptation will prohibit prayer.
- Walking in the council of the wicked, standing in the way of sinners, sitting in the seat of the scornful, will all prohibit prayer.
If our most important relationship is our relationship with God, then keeping ourselves in a prayerful attitude will be at the top of our priorities.
We will also keep prayer at the top of our priorities if we truly believe that God answers prayer. And he does!
- The Israelites prayed whilst in slavery in Egypt and the Lord heard them and delivered them.
- Daniel prayed, and the mouths of the lions were shut.
- Elijah prayed and the clouds dried up and gave no rain. He prayed again and the rains returned.
- The disciples prayed, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and 3,000 were added to the church in one day.
- Paul prayed and, doors were opened for the gospel, boldness was given to preach, and God’s people were built up and strengthened in their most holy faith.
James 5:16 reminds us that, ‘the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.’
The lesson is clear – we must pray.
Pray whilst we are walking. Pray whilst we are driving (when safe to do so). Pray when we lie awake at night. Pray for the Church. Pray for the nation. Pray for revival. Pray for others. Pray for ourselves. Pray for those we pass on the street. Pray for our families. Pray for our neighbours. Pray!
As we have seen, as believers we are called to ‘rejoice always’, and ‘pray without ceasing’. Tomorrow we will consider the command, ‘in everything give thanks.’
But for today let’s pray with the disciples,
‘Lord, teach us to pray.’ (Luke 11:1)
Sam Oldridge, Borras Park, Wrexham