1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
“Rejoice always.” Hmm, kinda tough but I’m willing to do my best.
“In everything give thanks.” Another tough one, but not as bad as rejoicing all the time.
“Pray without ceasing.” Wait – what? Are you serious? I have a life to live, I can’t pray without ever ceasing! That’s inhuman. That’s impossible!
What can Paul possibly mean when he instructs us to pray without ceasing?
Think of it this way: prayer is the cardiovascular system of your life.
“Cardio- what?” Cardiovascular. Cardiovascular refers to the system in your body which includes the heart, all the blood vessels, and the blood that is in them:
It has two parts which accomplish two different functions: one portion sends blood through the lungs to pick up the oxygen which you breathe in, and one portion sends that oxygen-rich blood through the rest of your body. Your body consumes the oxygen and produces carbon dioxide which must be taken away and expelled from your body when you breathe out.
The diagram shows both portions using red to show blood rich in oxygen and blue to show blood full of carbon dioxide. Let’s trace the flow:
1. Oxygen-rich blood (red) flows from the lungs to the heart
2. The heart pumps some of the blood upward to the head and arms, and the remainder downward to the abdomen and legs
3. As the blood passes through the body the oxygen is removed and replaced with carbon dioxide (turning it to blue in the diagram)
4. Blood (blue) flows from the body back to the heart
5. The heart pumps the carbon dioxide-rich blood to the lungs where it picks up a new supply of oxygen (turning it to red in the diagram)
Prayer works exactly in exactly the same way.
1. Jesus is the heart, the source of what is flowing and the pump that causes it to flow
2. We are the body, the Body of Christ; each part fulfills its function using what it receives from Jesus
3. Prayer is the blood; it flows from Jesus through each part of the Body and back again
This analogy shows us several important points:
· Prayer is not only what we say to God, but what He says to us
· What God says to us is perfect and full of life; His Word provides all that we need to live
· What we say to God is imperfect and impure; it carries the “junk” of our personal wishes and selfish desires
· God is continually cleaning and purifying what we say to Him and speaking it back to us
· As our life in Christ continues we mature, and there are less impurities for God to purify in our speaking to Him
There is also one very critical and often overlooked fact revealed by this analogy:
· The body cannot live very long without this continuous flow of blood; in the same way when we cease praying, the spiritual blood stops flowing, and before long the Body begins to die
But how can we possibly pray without ceasing?
If we think that prayer only happens when we kneel in silence alone before an altar, then we’ll incorrectly assume it’s impossible. But once we realize that prayer also includes listening for what God is saying every moment of our lives – whether working, playing, driving, eating, resting, giving, receiving, speaking, hearing, counseling or receiving counsel – whatever we are doing, always listening for His voice and responding to what He says, we will begin to see that it truly is possible to pray without ceasing. Sometimes He even speaks while we are sleeping!
Don’t worry so much about what you will say to God. “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak….” (James 1:19a). Learn to listen at all times, and He will teach you what to say back to Him. You will learn what it means to pray – and do! – the will of your Father in heaven.
Word of God: speak!
Non nobis Domine+
by Fr. Dana Jackson