I Thessalonians 4:12-22
12 And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.
14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. 15 See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil
In 1st Thessalonians, Paul is saying his farewell to the church. I love that the NKJV labels this “Various Exhortations” because there really isn’t much coherence in the entirety of the passage. Sure, they are good exhortations, but it’s really like a list that your parent gives to you as you leave for college or something.
“Don’t forget to brush your teeth.”
“Comb your hair.”
“Wear clean clothes.”
“Don’t talk back to your teacher.”
“Oh yeah, pray without ceasing.”
Am I the only one that has no idea what this means? If I am constantly praying, how am I supposed to do the other exhortations? I can’t comfort the fainthearted if I’m praying.
That is, I can’t comfort them if I am praying the same old, generic, filler stuff. Not that praying before bed, praying for food, praying for healing, praying for good grades (it’s exam week after all!), or any of those types of prayers are bad.
Richard Foster describes prayer as the central avenue God uses to transform us. He continues, “In prayer, 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 will.”
Prayers are not simply spoken. They are lived.
Quoting Deborah Hunsinger’s Pray Without Ceasing, “Prayer in the context of pastoral care is prayer on behalf of another. It is our response to another’s need, offered up to God. When we intercede for another, God draws us into communion with himself, providing the strength to face the situation at hand.” So praying without ceasing and comforting the fainthearted are not mutually exclusive.
Prayer is like communion. And I love that Luke Geraty has been talking about the sacraments because prayer is a sacrament. It’s a mysterious action. It’s not passive at all. It is a choice to join into the divine.
When we pray without ceasing, it means that our entire lives should be prayer. Our lives should, using the Westminster Catechism, glorify God in all aspects.
Prayer is reorienting ourselves back to God. As created beings, we rely upon our Creator. When we begin to realize that our lives are not our own and that we are not the author and finisher of our lives, we then can see that our entire being is dependent upon God. We pray without ceasing because we cannot live without God. We pray without ceasing because we cannot comfort without the Comforter. We pray without ceasing because we cannot abstain from evil without Jesus (Luke 22). We pray without ceasing because we are not God.
Something that I have developed over the years is a breath prayer. It’s an ancient tradition, probably used by the old Eastern Orthodox church. It’s a prayer that can be said in one single breath. Famous ones include, “Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner” and “Be still and know I am God.” Something that I have prayed in my breath prayers is “Teach me how to follow.”
This little prayer is all I need to redirect my gaze to God because it helps me to realize that I am being led by my Good Shepherd, and I follow him.