TITLE: Pray Constantly?
By Carol Welch
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“Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Don't stifle the Spirit” (I Thessalonians 5:16-19, CSB).
How do you respond when the Bible tells you to do something that you know is impossible? “Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Don’t stifle the Spirit” (I Thessalonians 5:16-19). Really? Am I supposed to take this literally? Is it actually possible for anyone to obey even one of these commands? How do I rejoice in the midst of devastation? How do I pray when I am on a deadline, and don’t even have time to think? Am I really supposed to give thanks when someone else’s carelessness ruins my entire day? And what does it mean to “stifle the Spirit?”
Jesus, himself tells us that the truth will set us free (John 8:32); and the truth is absolutely necessary if we really want to understand how to live out Paul's words in I Thessalonians. Today, we each stand before God, righteous and redeemed because of the blood of Jesus Christ. But we also stand in a sinful body, living in a sinful world, bombarded by an enemy who knows our weaknesses quite well. Yes, Satan knows your weakness, but that's not the point. Do you know your weakness? Are you willing to get to the heart of the matter?
It is a difficult question...I know, because God has been asking me this question for some time now. Believe me when I say that I am walking this road with you, and teaching you as God teaches me. And yes, the truth hurts!
When you read these verses in I Thessalonians, are you able admit to God that you don't rejoice always? Are you able to agree with him that you don't pray constantly? Are you able to confess how hard it is to be thankful in every single circumstance in your life? Are you willing to confess that you don't have time to pray because you don't want to make time to pray? The Holy Spirit, who lives within you, knows you better than you know yourself. Until you are able to come to a place of honesty before him and admit the reality of what you think and feel about the truth of the matter, you will stifle the Spirit.
Jesus walked the hills and highways of this world for 33 years. He loved the hateful, gave his time to the greedy, shared his truth with liars, healed the unthankful, preached to the unhearing, was humble before the proud, and gave the last ounce of his righteous blood for those who were already dead in sin, but refused to see it. Do you think it was easy for him to rejoice in the weakness of his human flesh? Do you think he struggled to pray constantly - deep into the night when he was exhausted, cold, and hungry? Do you think he was thankful for a disbelieving family, confused followers, stubborn questioners, lying accusers, angry executioners, and misguided mockers who laughed as he bled and died for them?
It puts things into perspective, does it not? Jesus persevered through a grueling ministry and died an agonizing death so that I would not have to suffer the eternal consequences of my sin. In return, I live for him...every minute, of every hour, of every day.
So let me ask you: What is it that keeps you from praying? What is it that stops your words of thankfulness from falling on God's ears? What is it that keeps you from being caught up in a moment of rejoicing and worship when you feel his loving presence well up within you? Are you really too busy? Are you too distracted by your surroundings? Do you doubt that God is listening? Do you wonder if he really wants your constant attention in prayer? Is your faith too small for the task? Are you faced with that difficult fact of "I don't want to!"?
Our prayers should always include a moment of truth when we come clean before God and admit our own personal struggle with Satan. This week, I encourage you to take a hard look at this issue. Ask God to help you get to the heart of the matter. Take hold of a verse of Scripture, and let it open a doorway of truth for you. Allow the Holy Spirit to teach you the truths that are necessary so that you can discover the freedom of Paul's words in I Thessalonians.
Consider the following passage in Luke 11:1 “He was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.’" What do you think would happen if you asked Jesus to teach you to pray, just as he taught his disciples to pray? I encourage you to open your mind to the truth of prayer this week. I encourage you to allow the Holy Spirit to teach you the truths that are necessary so that you can live in constant prayer. I encourage you to turn off the “world” and allow the Holy Spirit to teach you to pray. Just imagine the power of the "unstifled" Holy Spirit living within you!
May the Holy Spirit of Prayer well up within you today,
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