Pray Without Ceasing | 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17
What do you do in times of need? When you find injustice, poverty, crime out in the world; what is your natural response? To whom do you take your needs and concerns? What do you do when you have pressing needs and go through challenges in your life? Do you find yourself frustrated and anxious? Do you go to people with your needs? Well, I want to talk about a place and person to whom you can cast all your cares of this world – His name is Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul gives us three simple but specific commands in 1 Thessalonians 5: Rejoice, pray, and give thanks.. It is something we ought to be doing constantly, as a way of life.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 16Rejoice always, 17pray continually, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
God’s will for us is that we rejoice, we pray, and we give thanks, and through those things, God affects his sovereign purpose. I believe these three are tied together. The more thankful we are, the more prayerful we will be. The more prayerful we are, the more joyful we will be.
The king of Britain called for a day of solemn prayer and fasting because of a threatened invasion by the French in 1756. On February 6, John Wesley recorded in his journal, “The fast day was a glorious day, such as London has scarcely seen since the Restoration. Every church in the city was more than full, and a solemn seriousness sat on every face. Surely God heareth prayer, and there will yet be a lengthening of our tranquility.” In a footnote he wrote, “Humility was turned into national rejoicing for the threatened invasion by the French was averted.” So God answers prayer.
Apostle Paul spoke about praying without ceasing and Jesus taught the same.
Luke 18:1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.
Pray without ceasing. It is a kind of persistent prayer.
William Carey, “Secret, fervent, believing, prayer lies at the root of all personal godliness.”
To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. In real prayer, we begin to think God’s thoughts after him: to desire the things he desires, to love the things he loves, to will the things he wills.
It is vital for us to understand that when it comes to prayer (like in any other spiritual discipline), there is a learning process in order to grow and mature. We will find ourselves distracted. We will notice our minds wandering among the countless concerns of the day. However, as we continue in the path of prayer, our distractions will be shorter and less frequent.
Illustration: Richard Forster says, “To understand that the work of prayer involves a learning process, saves us from arrogantly dismissing it as false or unreal. If we turn on our television set and it does not work, we do not declare that there are no such things as electronic frequencies in the air or on the cable. We assume something is wrong, something we can find and correct. We check the plug, switch, circuit until we discover what is blocking the flow of this mysterious energy that transmits pictures. We know the problem has been found and fixed by seeing whether or not the TV works. It is the same with prayer.”
Prayer is one of the basic activities of the Christian life. It is interesting that the disciples never asked the Lord, “Teach us to Preach / Cast out Demons / Heal the Sick.” Instead they asked the Lord Jesus, “Teach us to Pray!” (Luke 11:1-13)
Consistent persistent prayer is a command. It flows from our dependence and our need. Prayer is like breathing. It is a spiritual routine for all times, as we inhale and exhale in the atmosphere of God’s presence.
In Luke Jesus told the story of the reluctant friend and the story of the unjust judge. And they provide a good place to start in understanding what it means to pray without ceasing.
Luke 11:1-4 1One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” 2He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father,hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3Give us each day our daily bread. 4Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”
After teaching his disciples to pray, Jesus spoke two parables in Luke 11 and 18 to teach about persistence in prayer.
Luke 11:5-8 5Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacityhe will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
God is not like that reluctant friend. God will hear and He will answer. And He will respond to your persistence, not because you frustrate Him, but because He cares about you.
Luke 11:9-13 9“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 11“Which of you fathers, if your son asks fora fish, will give him a snake instead? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
In Luke 18, you have another parable of Jesus teaching us to pray persistently. Luke 18:1-8 1Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ 4“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” 6And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
God is not like a reluctant friend. God is not like the unjust judge. He is the very opposite of that. He seeks to respond to those whom He loves and to whom He has made promises of care and answered prayer.
Jesus Is The Model Of Persistent Prayer
Luke 22:39-44 39Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
The Early Church Was Marked By Persistent Prayer
Acts 1:14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
They all gathered together and were continually devoting themselves to prayer. All through Acts we find that the early church prayed constantly.
The Epistles Emphasize On Persistent Prayer
Romans 15:30 I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.
Ephesians 6:18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
We are constantly called to this unceasing prayer, persistent prayer.
The word praise in Greek is the most common New Testament word for prayer. That prayer could contain praise. It could contain petition. It could and should contain confession. It could and should contain intersession, in which you literally interceded for someone else. It could contain thanksgiving.
Praying without ceasing doesn’t mean non-stop. It means recurring. It means to have a connect with God throughout the day, at specific times, which then becomes a lifestyle of payer.
Time Of Prayer In The Bible
There is no particular time of prayer in the Bible. In the Bible, people prayed at all times.
Psalm 119:164 Seven times I praise you for your righteous laws.
Psalm 55:16-17 16As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me. 17Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.
Scripture gives examples of people who pray at noon and people who pray at night and people who pray seven times a day (Psalm 119:165).
Paul and Silas prayed at midnight, Acts 16:25.
Sometimes Jesus prayed all night, Luke 6:12.
Jesus prayed in the morning, Mark 1:35.
David prayed in the morning, Psalm 5:3; Psalm 63:1.
Then there are long prayers of Paul and then short prayers of Elijah.
So there is no particular time we can pray. We are called to pray without ceasing at all times.
Posture of Prayer
You will find in the Bible people praying kneeling, standing up, lying face down. You will find them praying lying on a bed (Psalm 63:6), lying on the ground (2 Samuel 12:16), with hands up, hands down, hands out, face up, face down, etcetera. There is no official posture. Prayer. just a way of life.
English theologian and author J. B. Lightfoot, “It is not in the moving of the lips that the essence of prayer consists. It is in the elevation of the heart to God.”
Prayer is the rising, constant elevation of the heart before God.
No matter what happens, you recognize your utter dependence on divine supply. And so you just live in this kind of environment, this kind of spiritual air of joy and thanks and prayer.
What Motivates Prayer?
1. Prayer Is The Desire For The Lord’s Glory.
When you take everything before the Lord, you are saying: Lord, I’m going to be looking for Your answer. I’m going to be looking for Your power displayed in this area.
See what Daniel prayed in Daniel 9:4-5 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong.
What Daniel was saying is: Oh God, I’m praying to You because You’re such an awesome God, a God of grace and loving kindness. And I’m praying because I want to see You put that on display. At the end of that prayer, later in the chapter, he says, I am praying for Your sake, your glory.
Daniel 9:17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary.
Daniel 9:19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”
The focus of Daniel’s prayer was for God’s glory. “Our prayers should change from self-focused prayers to God-focused prayers.” Shine Thomas
2. Prayer Is The Desire For Fellowship With The Lord.
David longed that presence and fellowship with the Lord and he prayed for that:
Psalm 42:1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
David got himself into situations where he felt so isolated. He left so alienated. He felt so far away from God. Sinful situations, unfair situations, and his heart screamed and cried out for God.
Psalm 27:4-5 4One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. 5For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.
In the midst of trouble, our heart is motivated to run into the presence of God, for there is protection and there is rest. There is succor. There is nourishment. There is safety.
3. In Prayer We Find Mercy And Grace To Help In Time Of Need.
Jesus taught us to pray for our daily bread.
Matthew 6:11 Give us today our daily bread.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
- Prayer Gives Us Relief From Trouble.
God delivers us when we pray in trouble. Psalm 20:1 May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
Think about Jonah. In the middle of his trouble, what did he do? He had the most significant prayer experience of his life from the belly of a great fish. God is very skilled at getting His people out of trouble.
- Prayer Gives Us Relief From Worry.
Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Psalm 4:1 Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
- Prayer Gives Us Relief From Sin.
Psalm 32:5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Psalm 51:7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Read Daniel 9, where Daniel embraces the sins of the whole nation of Israel and carries them before God in confession. If you’re a Christian, sin will prompt prayers of confession.
4. In Prayer We Find Daily Wisdom.
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
So, Lord, please, give me wisdom for today. God’s wisdom is available for every situation we face.
HINDERANCE TO PRAYER
Illustration: Dozens of Wi-Fi signals and TV signals crisscross this room, but you failed to pick them up because you were not tuned to the proper frequencies. Often people pray and pray with all the faith in the world, but nothing happens. Naturally, they were not tuned in to God.
Psalm 66:18 If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
God is not going to hear, in the sense of hearing and answering your prayer, if you are sinning.
What are some of the sins that thwart our prayers?
2. Lack Of Forgiveness.
If you’re holding a grudge against somebody, if you’re bitter against somebody, Jesus said you’re not going to be forgiven.
Matthew 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.
Matthew 6:14-15 14For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Matthew 5:23-24 23“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
If you want to enjoy the blessing of God’s forgiveness in your life, and want your prayers to be answered, then you must give the same forgiveness to those who offended you.
- Marital Discord Can Hinder Prayer
1 Peter 3:7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
3. Lack Of Compassion
Proverbs 21:13 Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.
We are called to be people of compassion and help others in need. Lack of compassion can hinder our prayers.
4. Lack of faith
James 1:6-8 6But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
5. Asking Selfishly.
James 4:3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
Illustration: A little boy was praying, and he said, “God bless mommy and God bless daddy and God bless my friends, and God, I want a new bicycle.” And his mother said, “Why are you yelling? God isn’t deaf?” And he said, “I know, but Grandma’s in the next room, and she’s hard of hearing.” Well I think some of our prayers are directed at God with that same attitude. This is what I really want, so I’m cranking up the volume.
How To Pray Without Ceasing?
We should never make prayer too complicated. Jesus taught us to come like children to a father.
We may not feel like practicing the piano, but once we play for a while, we feel like doing it. So we need to start praying and slowly the prayer momentum will build up.
Illustration: Occasional joggers do not suddenly enter an Olympic marathon. They prepare and train themselves over a period of time, so we should train in prayer. When such progression is followed, we can expect to pray a year from now with greater authority and spiritual success than at present.
Prayer takes no time, but it occupies all our time.
1. Have Set Times Of Prayer.
Set times to pray can create a habit of prayer.
David and Daniel had set times of prayers. These men made it a habit to pray at set times throughout the day.
To start with Pray in the morning, afternoon, and night.
Richard Foster in his book says about a missionary to Burma for 40 years, Adoniram Judson who prayed seven times a day: Six, Nine, Twelve, Three, Six, Nine, and Midnight.
I have head someone talking about praying for five minutes when the clock strikes every hour.
To stat with scheduled set times of short prayers, very soon you will be praying as a habit.
2. Pray for the Major Things/Events of the Day.
Pray when you wake up and go to bed, for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, during tea time. Pray when you start your work, before your meeting, when you get out of the house and come back into your house. Pray when you start your vehicle. Develop a good family prayer time. Can you see how much of intentional prayer we have added into our day? Very soon it becomes a habit.
3. Grow To A Level Of Constant Communion With God.
Set time and set prayers help us develop experience and persistence in prayer, and slowly you will tend to develop a level of constant communion, praying without ceasing in your life. We are commanded to come to that level of prayer. When we come to that level, begin to think God’s thoughts after him, desire the things God desires, to love the things God loves, and to will the things he wills.
Illustration: It is said the early African converts to Christianity were very faithful to pray. As their houses were small huts with lots of people, each believer reportedly had separate spots in the forest where they poured out their hearts to God. The paths to these spots became distinctly marked; and when any one began to decline in prayer time, it was soon apparent to others. They would then kindly remind him, saying, “Brother, the grass grows on your path, please pray.”
What about you? Does the grass grow on your path to God? For the Christian, prayer should be one of the most natural things we do every day, every moment of the day.
Let’s develop the discipline of prayer and train up our family and children in this discipline.
Sometimes the answer we get is not what we expected. We need to understand that there would be times, when our fervent prayers would go unanswered or that the reply might come in a way that is unexpected. We must understand that that is the sovereign will of God and commit ourselves to God’s will. We will be able to discern that better if we develop the discipline of listening to God.
Listening to God. Remember, prayer is not just one-sided, when we pray, God answers us. Søren Kierkegaard once observed: “A man prayed, and at first he thought that prayer was talking. But he became more and more quiet until in the end he realized that prayer is listening.” Listening to God is the necessary prelude to intercession. Listening to the Lord is the first thing, the second thing, and the third thing necessary for successful intercession.
Let’s commit ourselves to pray without ceasing and tune our ears to listen to God.