Thursday, September 6, 2018

Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

A simple command given by an apostle.  Paul is giving an inspired statement.  Commentaries suggest his meaning.  Despite some being excellent, none are in the category of inspiration.  We may pick the one that agrees with our thoughts, but they remain as human assumptions.  What follows is also in that category!

The statement is found in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian church.  His command is in three words in English, probably less in Greek.  Paul is ending his letter with short commands with this one being in second place.

Paul does not explain the parameters of this statement.  “Pray without ceasing.”  A divine command.  At face value, isn’t this command impossible?  “Pray without ceasing.”  We give ourselves an “out” with, “What Paul meant was to have a habit of praying, not that we are in a 24/7 prayer.”  Perhaps the command is like Paul’s “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4) or “Cease not to give thanks” (Ephesians 1:16) or “always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10)?  Are the Holy Spirit’s statements “without ceasing,” “always,” and “Cease not” restricted to set times during the day or week?  If so, could that mean that the rest of the time prayer, rejoicing, or thanks may be neglected?  Isn’t that like a person who dresses in his “Sunday best” to show respect for God while in the Sunday morning assembly?  However, on Sunday and Wednesday nights, our “Sunday best” is not required!  Wouldn’t that mean we are without what makes us respectful because we left it in the closet?

Is the expression “pray without ceasing” limited to those times one words a prayer?  To demand that “without ceasing” requires a 24/7 action makes it impossible to obey.  Doesn’t everyone need to have his Eutychus time without falling from a window (Acts 20:9)?  If praying without ceasing may be obeyed by one being in an attitude of prayer without specifically wording it, is it possible that one could also be in that same attitude concerning things one usually prays for?

In our family devotions my wife will sometimes mention, “You forgot to pray for. . .”  We will usually bow our heads again and mention that specific person or activity in the added prayer.  But, is it necessary?  If we are obedient to that command through an attitude of prayer, isn’t it remembered by God without our putting it into words?  If you are in the habit of praying prior to sleep, but it catches you before you’re finished, have you neglected prayer?   I’ve heard people say, “I went to sleep before I asked God to forgive me.  What if I had died in my sleep?”  Does God know our heart?  Doesn’t He know our tomorrows?  Remember, He isn’t restricted to our shortcomings!

Does God hold forgiveness from us until we vocally or mentally say, “Forgive me”?  If so, then you better not go to sleep before you express those two words, or you are damned forever if you die.  Does God listen to a person’s prayer and turn to the angels and say, “Well, we’re losing another one to Satan because he went to sleep before he asked for forgiveness!”?  If that is the case, then any prayer that absentmindedly leaves an item out, isn’t going to be answered even though God knows all.  Don’t close your prayer without telling God how much you love Him.  If you forget, He may think you don’t!  If you died before telling Him, He may announce to the angels that you did not love Him due to that slight!

I know these are just my thoughts.  I’ve added my assumptions.  So, what are yours concerning Paul and the Holy Spirit’s statement, “Pray without ceasing”?