Pray without ceasing1 Thessalonians 5:17
When my family and I moved back to Minnesota from South Dakota in 2012, we were searching for a house and there was one my wife Marie and I liked but wasn’t on the market yet. Our realtor knew the owners were thinking about listing it though, so she showed it to us. We liked it and put an offer on it.
As we left the realtor’s office that night, Marie said to me in the parking lot, “You know we didn’t even pray about that.” We had prayed about moving back to Minnesota, but in the excitement of the moment we had neglected to pause and ask God if that house was where he wanted us to live. If that’s where he wanted to plant us and use us.
Feeling convicted, we went to pick up our daughters who were staying with a family member. When we picked them up, we told our girls that we put an offer in on that house. And without missing a beat, our oldest daughter, who was four years old at the time, said, “What!? But God told me we were going to live at the other house!”
Marie and I were both shocked and not sure what to say. Suffice it to say that we weren’t all that surprised when our offer on that other house was rejected as the owners decided not to list their house. We ended up in the house God told our daughter we were going to live in, which is where we still live today.
The point is that we go through so much of our lives with no regard for asking God about it, often the little things but even big things like buying a home. Far too often we don’t ask for his help, we don’t ask for his direction, we don’t ask about how we can glorify him through our circumstances.
We just cruise along and do it ourselves.
The Height of Pride
Adam Ramsey, a pastor in Australia, once wrote, “For many Christian leaders [and I would say for all Christians, not just leaders], the greatest indicator of pride in our hearts is not the presence of boasting, but the absence of prayer.” I have this quote written on my whiteboard right next to my desk in my office at ATLAS to help remind me not to just cruise through my work all on my own.
If we think about it, not praying is non-verbally telling God that we don’t need him. And telling God we don’t need him, has to be the height of pride. To fail to pray is to become like a toddler telling their parents every time they attempt to do something, “No, I do it!”
When we fail to pray, we likewise tell God, “No, I do it!” If we are honest with ourselves about how much we actually do in our lives without praying about it, I think we would be saddened by the pride that that reveals in our lives.
A Gift Resulting From A Relationship
Prayer is our right, our gift, our benefit as believers in Jesus. Prayer is possible because of our relationship with God. Through faith, we are given access directly to God himself in prayer. Because we have Jesus as a great High Priest in heaven sitting at the very right hand of the Father interceding and advocating for us, Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” It’s this relationship that makes prayer possible.
Pray – In Suffering, Sickness, Sin, and Celebration
James 5:13-16 helps answer for us the “when” question in regard to prayer. When should we pray? James writes:
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
So when should we pray? James’ answer –
- Are you suffering? Pray!
- Are things going well for you? Praise God!
- Are you sick? Pray!
- Are you wrestling with sin? Confess and pray!
I think for most people, there aren’t too many times in life when we’re not close to one of these four things. If times aren’t good, then we’re all likely either struggling with something (maybe it’s a job, a relationship, finances, or countless other things). If it’s not a struggle like that, then we’re likely dealing with some type of physical health issue. And if it’s not a physical health issue, we’re likely wrestling with some sin in our lives that we’re struggling to kill.
So the invitation from James in this passage is really the same as what Paul shares in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 when he says, “Pray without ceasing.” There is no such thing as a bad or wrong time to pray. In suffering, sickness, sin, or celebration, we can go to God in prayer! We can pray to him, ask boldly of him, thank him, sing to him, and praise him – all in prayer.
In every season and circumstance of life, we have the gift of prayer.
NOTE: This post was adapted from a sermon I gave on July 4, 2021 at Refuge Church in Willmar, MN.