Meditations in 1 Thessalonians
Part 3 : 24. Pray Continually?
1 Thess 5:16-18 Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
The very human side of me thinks that Paul is making fun of us in this verse (I know he’s not!) in the way he started out “Be joyful always,” and now “Pray continually.” It is the words ‘always’ and ‘continually’ which is why I’ve put a question mark behind the title of this meditation. Does Paul mean we should be praying every waking hour of our lives? Well we worked through the first one to a good conclusion so let’s see if we can do the same here.
Now earlier in this letter Paul had said, “Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith,” (1 Thess 3:10) which again has a continuous feel to it. In his second letter to them he writes, “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfil every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.” (2 Thess 1:11) However in those verses, although we could think it has this continuous feel to it, it could easily mean, “When we do pray for you we always ask that…” putting the emphasis more on the content of what they ask for being the thing they ask for whenever they do pray.
When writing to Timothy he says something interesting: “The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help.” (1 Tim 5:5) There is an urgency about her praying that causes her to pray, not necessarily every minute but regularly and that urgency comes out of her situation.
Very well, think about this realistically? When Paul was in the midst of his shipwreck situation (Acts 27) I suspect that his praying focused more on the current desperate situation rather than run through a list of all the churches he knew of, so although the 1 Thess 3 verse was no doubt true – at a particular point of time he kept on coming back to the Lord about the issue – at other moments other things caught his attention.
So what does “pray continually” mean? He instructed the Romans, “Be faithful in prayer,” (Rom 12:12) meaning continue to make prayer a regular part of your life. To the Ephesians he said, “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 saints.” (Eph 6:18) The emphasis there, though, is first of all on the nature of your praying – being Spirit led – and then on taking any and every situation to the Lord in prayer. To the Colossians he said, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Col 4:2) The indication there is that we need to make prayer a vital part of our lives as we watch and see enemy attacks, hostile situations or even great opportunities, as well as realizing the goodness of God to us for which we should be thankful.
That prayer was a key feature of Paul’s life is obvious as we saw above (1 Thess 3:10. 2 Thess 1:11). We might also add, “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe,” (Eph 1:16-19) and later in that same letter, “For this reason I kneel before the Father…. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power …… And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Eph 3:14-18)
The overall thrust of what we have seen must be, at the very least, to ensure you make prayer a vital part of your life so that you are regularly referring matters to your Father in heaven and seeking His heart and mind on all issues in your life. Now to do this supposes two things. First, that we have this relationship with the Lord that we can take things to Him like this. Second, is that we have come to a point where we realise that without Jesus’ leading, without the empowering and directing and wisdom of his Holy Spirit, we can do nothing effective, productive or fruitful: “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:5) We have noted before, Jesus saying, “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing.” (Jn 5:19) One of the things that happens when we pray, is that we become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit, more sensitive to Jesus’ leading, more sensitive to the Father’s will.
So, to summarise, we will pray continually, will pray regularly bringing any and every situation to the Lord, when we realise His headship and His provision, without which we can do nothing. Prayer is the cry of a man or woman who realises they are lost without Him! Prayer is the cry of a man or woman who realises they are a child of God and want to share everything in their life with their heavenly Father. Prayer is the cry of the man or woman who knows the call of God on their life and realise they need His guidance, His wisdom, His enabling and His direction. Can we not pray!