1 Thessalonians 5:17
Pray without ceasing.
The position of the text is suggestive.
1. It comes after "Rejoice evermore," and as if that had staggered the reader, Paul now tells him how to do it: "Always pray." The more praying the more rejoicing.
2. In everything give thanks. When joy and prayer are married their firstborn is gratitude.
I. WHAT DO THESE WORDS IMPLY?
1. That the voice is not an essential element in prayer. It would be unseemly and impossible to pray aloud unceasingly. There would be no opportunity for any other duty. We may speak a thousand words and never pray, and yet cry most effectually, like Moses, and never utter a word. The voice is helpful, but not necessary, to the reality or prevalence of prayer.
2. The posture is not of great importance. Kneeling is a beautiful token, but who could be always kneeling? and, besides, good men have stood, sat, etc.
3. The place is not essential; if it were, our churches should be large enough for us all to live in them; and if for the highest acceptance we need aisle, chancel, etc., then farewell green lanes, fields, etc., for we must without ceasing dwell where your fragrance can never reach us. But this is ridiculous. "God dwelleth not in temples made with hands."
4. The text overthrows the idea of particular times, for every second must be suitable for prayer. It is good to have seasons, but superstition to suppose that one hour or season is holier than another. Every day is a red letter day.
5. A Christian has no right to go into any place where he could not continue to pray. Hence many amusements stand condemned at once. Imagine a collect for the shooting match, the race course, the theatre. Anything that is right for you to do you may consecrate with prayer.
II. WHAT DOES THIS ACTUALLY MEAN?
1. A privilege. Kings hold their levees at certain times, and then their courtiers are admitted; but the King of kings holds a constant levee.
2. A precept. It means —
(1) Never abandon prayer for any cause. You must not pray until you are saved and then leave off; nor after you are experienced in grace; nor because of Satan's temptation that it is all vain; nor because the heavens are brass, or your heart cold; nor because you cannot answer sceptical objections. No difficult problem about digestion prevents you eating. As we breathe without ceasing, so we must pray.
(2) Never suspend the regular offering of prayer. Never give up the morning and evening prayer. The clock is to go all day, but there is a time for winding it up.
3. Between these hours of devotion be much in ejaculatory prayer. While your hands are busy with the world, let your hearts still talk with God. He who prays without ceasing uses little darts or hand grenades of godly desire, which he casts forth at every available interval.
4. We must always be in the spirit of prayer. Our heart must be like the magnetic needle, which always has an inclination towards the pole. In an iron ship it exhibits serious deflections; if you force it to the east, you have only to take the pressure away and immediately it returns to its beloved pole again. So let your hearts be magnetized with prayer, so that if the finger of duty turns it away from the immediate act, there may still be the longing desire, to be acted upon the first possible moment. As perfume lies in flowers even when they do not shed their fragrance, so let prayer lie in your hearts.
5. Let your actions be consistent with and a continuation of your prayers. The text cannot mean that I am always to be in direct devotion, for the mind needs variety of occupation, and could not without madness continue always in the exercise of one function. We must therefore change the manner of operation if we are to pray without ceasing. He who prays for his fellow creatures and thus seeks their good is praying still.
III. HOW CAN WE OBEY THESE WORDS?
1. Let us labour to prevent all sinful interruptions.
2. Let us avoid all unnecessary interruptions. If we know of anything that we can escape which is likely to disturb the spirit of prayer let us shun it.
3. Sometimes we are too busy to pray. This is a great mistake. Luther said, "I have so much to do today that I shall never get through it without three hours prayer." Sir H. Havelock rose two hours before the time to march that he might have time for Bible reading and communion with God. Payson, pressed by examinations, etc., abridged the time for private prayer, but when he corrected his mistake, he confessed that he did more in a single week than in twelve months before. God can multiply our ability to make use of them.
4. We must strive against indolence, lethargy, and indifference. We need waking up. Routine grows upon us.
5. Fight against despair of being heard. If we have not been heard after six times we must, like Elijah, go again seven times. Be importunate: heaven's gate does not open to every runaway knock.
6. Never cease through presumption.
IV. WHY SHOULD WE OBEY THIS PRECEPT? Because —
1. It is of Divine authority.
2. The Lord always deserves to be worshipped.
3. You want a blessing in all the work you are doing.
4. You are always in danger of being tempted. Carry your sword in your hand; never sheathe it.
5. You always want something.
6. Others always want your prayers.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Pray without ceasing.