The Essence of Prayer, I – I Thess 5:17

I Thessalonians 5:17  “pray without ceasing”.  Paul has given an exhortation, a command to a very young church.  This can be taken in a number of ways.  We can be like Nicodemus in John 3:3, 4.  When Jesus declared he must be born again, his response was “What??”  He clearly misunderstood the concept of the spiritual new birth.  To pray literally without ceasing is impossible for us on a human level.  We need a further understanding of this command on another level.

We must understand what Paul is not saying.  He is not saying, “Pray once in a while.”  He is not saying, ”Pray a little more frequently than you have been.”  He is saying, “Pray and don’t stop.”  This is how Paul prayed, Romans 1:9 “without ceasing”, I Corinthians 1:4 “always”, Ephesians 1:16 “without ceasing”.  This is clearly his own pattern that he exhorts to.

Paul is saying that there needs to be a spirit of prayer in our hearts and minds that breaks out into actual prayer at any moment.  It is an atmosphere of prayer, a climate that we live in that breaks out into rain and sun and clouds – praise and thanksgiving and petition.

We were created for this.  We were not created to be independent beings.  We were created for God Almighty, who is Spirit, not localized to one place.  We were not intended to just go into a prayer closet once in a while but to live in this atmosphere of prayer.  This requires that our communication channel with God,  the send and receive frequency, is switched on.  We cannot be living in a sense of guilt or sin that prevents prayer.

The believer prizes communion with God and will modify how he lives his life.  His mind will not be taken up with other things.  It’s a strategy of Satan to fill our minds with things that seem so important at the time.  There are times when our minds must be fully occupied with necessary work, but if there is an atmosphere of prayer we will take the available breaks – walking to the car, walking to a meeting, brushing teeth – to break into actual prayer.  The believer is called on divide himself in order to be whole.  The believer must be in this atmosphere of prayer when the mind is otherwise occupied.

Why?  The believer is a gracious being in a needy, often graceless world.  If we do not have a response of prayer in the midst of the world, who are we?  The believer has been shown mercy and shows mercy by praying for those around us.  The believer must recognize that God has put him in the world and difficult situations for prayer that God would show mercy.  This comes from having been given grace in Christ.