A friend invited me to comment on his Facebook page today regarding a sermon he is preparing for this Sunday. His sermon is based on Pauls injunction to constant prayer in one of the Thessalonian letters. This is my comment to him.
I think Paul repeats himself a lot in all his letters – take his gift mix in Romans and Ephesians for instance. He is basically saying hey, God has called you, he has a purpose for you all and he has gifted you.. none of you have missed out…I think you will find this theme in most of his letters. Therefore I think it pays to see what does Paul say in his other writings about prayer.. id say its worthwhile to do this, even if you are specifically preaching about what Paul means for the Thessalonians to be praying about.
I think the term “constantly” means to have our hearts set on the things of God – not just for ourselves, but for others. I don’t think prayer means to “beg” as in meaning to want the scraps off the table, or someone’s loose change. Rather prayer comes out of a trusting heart that God will grant what you ask, because of the relationship we have with him.
However there are times when the Spirit of God moves us to intercession and we are filled with a unique boldness before God where we will not take no for an answer, and we know as we pray that we will indeed have what we ask for. Sometimes this intercession can take seconds through to years. And for what ever reason it is, we just can’t stop praying for it. I believe that God calls / gifts some to intercede more then they do others – like he does with all his gifts and callings. But that perhaps is going on a tangent.
However, within the framework of the Thessalonians, we do it and ourselves a disservice when we think of it only on a individual basis. I must pray. I must pray constantly… Paul is talking to the church as a community of believers and is saying.. hey guys, YOU must pray. And so they hear / read Paul saying – “WE must pray. And so the church is to be a body of believers in which the church its self, constantly prays.
The conclusion of one of the letters to the Thessalonians is telling in that don’t put out / quench the Spirit of God’s leading / inspiration. There are times when someone comes to mind and I can’t get them out of my head, and so I pray for them. In those times I will often say Lord help me to know what to pray, let me pray in you and you through me.. and when I do pray like this, I am often surprised at just what it is I am praying and how for that person. (now some might say how do you know that’s God and not the devil or indigestion?) Truth is. I don’t! BUT, I doubt the devil is going to inspire me to pray for someone in dire circumstances, and I do know that its God’s will for me to pray.. so pray I will.