1 Thessalonians 5:17
Pray without ceasing.
I. PRAYER MUST BE INCESSANT.
1. From the nature of the act.
(1) Prayer is intercourse with God, the Being in whom the creature lives and moves. To stop praying, therefore, is to break the connection. A man must breathe without ceasing because thereby his whole physical system is kept in right relation with the atmosphere. It is as strictly true that religious being depend upon communication with God.
(2) It may be objected that prayerless men suffer no distress. If a human body is removed from the air and shut up in the Black Hole of Calcutta, the report comes at once from the physical organization that the established relation of the fleshly nature and the world has been interfered with.
(a) To this we reply that as man is composed of two natures, so he lives two lives, and for this reason he is able to gratify the desires of one nature and lead only one life here; it is possible for the flesh to live and the soul to be dead in sin. Like an amphibious animal, if man can absorb his lower nature in the objects of sense, he is able to dispense with intercourse between God and his higher nature without distress. If the amphibian can breathe on land, he need not gasp like a fish when taken from his native element.
(b) But while this is so, the soul, the principal part of man, cannot permanently escape distress if out of communication with God. The halfway life is not possible in eternity. The amphibian cannot live year after year in one element. Each nature asserts its rights ultimately, and if its wants are not met suffocation is the consequence. And so man cannot live in only one of his natures forever.
(c) We appeal to the Christian and ask him whether complete cessation of prayer would not work as disastrously to his soul as the stoppage of breath would in his body. Suppose that that calming, sustaining intercourse were shut off, would not your soul gasp and struggle? What a sinking sensation would fill the heart of the afflicted or bereaved if it were found impossible to pray! Man has become so accustomed to this privilege that he does not know its full richness. Like other gifts, nothing but deprivation would enable him to apprehend its full value.
2. From the fact that God is continually the hearer of prayer. An incessant appeal supposes one incessant reply. God does not hear His people today and turn a deaf ear tomorrow. He promised to hear in His temple continually (2 Chronicles 8:12-16); nor does its destruction disprove the Divine faithfulness. If the worshipper ceases to go into the temple, God, of course, goes out of it. God, as Creator, has established such a relation between the body of man and the air that there must be a continual supply of air; and therefore He has surrounded him with the whole atmosphere. The instant he inhales with his lungs, he finds the element ready. And God, as Saviour, has established such a relation between the renewed soul and Himself that there must be unceasing communion, and therefore in the gospel proffers Himself, so that whenever the heart punts out its desire it finds one ever present supply.
II. THE FEASIBILITY OF UNCEASING PRAYER. The fact that prayer is the only mode by which the creature can hold intercourse with his Maker, goes to prove that such intercourse is practicable. It cannot be that God has called a dependent being into existence and cut off all access. If the intercourse is broken, it cannot be by God. To pray without ceasing: —
1. Man must have an inclination to pray.
(1) Volition is impotent without inclination. A man does not continuously follow an earthly calling unless his heart is in it. The two differ as stream from fountain. A man's resolutions spring out of his disposition, and in the long run do not go counter to it. Suppose an entire destitution of the inclination to draw near to God, and then by an effort of will lashing yourself up to the disagreeable work; even supposing such prayer acceptable, you could not make it unceasing by this method. You would soon grow weary.
(2) But if the inclination do exist, prayer will be constant and uniform. A good tree cannot but bear good fruit, and year after year without ceasing; because there is a foundation laid for this at the root. So if the soul is inclined towards God, nothing can prevent it from approaching Him — not sorrows, imprisonment, death.
2. This inclination must be strengthened by cultivation. Because it is the product of the Holy Spirit, it does not follow that we may neglect the means of development. You cannot originate a flower; but you must supply it with means of nurture, or it will die. And so with the inclination to pray. The means are —
(1) Regularity in the practice of prayer. Man is a creature of habit, and whatever he leaves to chance is likely to be neglected. He who has no particular time for winding his watch will often let it run down. There is a time for everything, and that Christian will be the most likely to pray without ceasing who at particular times enters his closet and shuts the door.
(2) The practice of ejaculatory prayer. Prayer does not depend so much upon its length as its intensity. We are not compelled to go to some central point, as Jerusalem or Mecca. In any section of space or point of time, the ejaculation of the soul may reach the Eternal mind, and be rewarded by the Hearer of prayer.
Parallel VersesKJV: Pray without ceasing.