Monday, May 25, 2015

Without Ceasing

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Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees. -Victor Hugo

Think about that one.  It places the right focus on prayer. It defines prayer.  It places our function in the act of prayer. Prayer is a commitment, an expression of having relationship, a form of conversation.  It's an expression of our place in relationship, a recognition of subservience, a request.  Prayer expresses our need, a recognition of whence that need can be fulfilled.  It speaks of hope and it recognizes the source of that hope.

Our illustration is probably the most famous artwork relating to prayer: Albrecht Durer's "Praying Hands".  It depicts prayer as worship, as an attitude toward God, one of reverence.  Which makes the most recognizable verse on prayer seem so essential.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 (KJV)  Pray without ceasing.

We started by talking about some of the things that prayer is or does.  And there's more.  There's a Bible study principle that when something is mentioned more than once in Scripture, it's something God wants us to take note of.  In the King James, if we look up the words "pray", "prayer", and "praying", they're found 447 times in 425 verses.  I'd say that kind of tells us it's a subject close to God's heart.  But let's take a walk through a series of thoughts.

  1. Prayer is part of a two way conversation between God and man.
  2. In a real conversation we listen as well as speak.
  3. God is omniscient.  So, He really doesn't need to hear us say what we want to say to him. He already knows what we're going to say.
  4. Conversation requires being present.  Even a phone call requires mental presence if we're going to actively participate.
James 5:13 (KJV)  Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.

In other words, if we have a need, ask.  If we're blessed, sing Psalms.  And, if we look at the book of Psalms, many are basically prayers of praise and worship set to music.  So, either way, pray. Think about those four points, again.

If we have to listen to God to know what He wants us to know, but God doesn't need to listen to us because He already knows what we're going to say, then who should be listening to our prayers? Simple.  Us. In a "normal" conversation, we speak so the other party hears what we have to say, then we listen to take in the other person's thoughts.  In our conversation with God, listening is a major portion of what we do.

“To pray is to breathe alongside God.” -- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

If you haven't noticed, that quote has been part of my blog's banner for a number of months.  We've talked a bit about breathing in several recent posts.  But that quote highlights some important realities.  Just like conversation, breathing requires taking in and giving out.  Eliminate either one and breathing stops.  No breathing, no life.  The same is true spiritually.  If we don't communicate and also take in what God has for us, our spiritual life dies.  Our prayer life is essential.  Not only for our spiritual well being, but for God to usher in yet another blessing.

Matthew 6:33a (KJV)  But seek ye first the kingdom of God,

The phrase "the kingdom of God" is common in the Bible and its meaning is important.  We're not looking at some future reign that we may never see on this earth.  The phrase most often refers to the presence of God.  Brother Lawrence is known for his book, The Practice of the Presence of God.  Bring in His kingdom, now!  The better our life of prayer and meditation, the sooner we enter God's presence and the closer we get.  Our relationship with Him becomes stronger and closer.  To put it bluntly, prayer allows us to be in the presence of the Creator of the universe!

It's awesome that this weekend also celebrated those graduating Bible college.  Most of us need help from extra services, Bible college, and other forms of extra study to fully tune in to listening to God.  That all gives God a channel into our soul to feed us what we need.  Sometimes that will be verses, other times it'll be doctrinal thoughts.  And sometimes, He'll show us fresh relationships of things from His Word.  But it takes prayer, study, and meditation to enter into God's presence fully. So, how's your heavenly conversation?  Is it inhaling and exhaling God's essence?


Just a reminder: If you'd like to contribute to our first international mission trip, you can go to Send Bill to Costa Rica and donate.  Thanks.

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