1 Thessalonians 5: 12-22
This last chapter is full of imperatives. Paul begins his epistle like many others reminding us what Christ has done for us, emphasizing Gospel indicatives- based on what God has done, this is how we should live - Gospel imperatives.
I want to focus on the injunction in verse 17, “pray without ceasing”. Some time ago I read a Banner of Truth article written by a pastor at the back end of his life entitled, “I Wish I had Prayed More”. This comes to my mind sometimes when I prepare to go into a counseling session or a difficult situation in a church. Maybe with a friend or in a marriage, in sermon preparation I might think, “I wish I had prayed more.” I’m sure every Christian feels that regret sometimes.
Why don’t we pray more? Many reasons perhaps; we could probably build a list. If I had only one word for why we don’t pray more it would be: forget. What do we forget? We forget who God is. We can forget He’s our friend, our Father. We can forget how capable He is, how powerful He is – that He can do far above what we could ever ask or think. We forget that He can solve any problem we have, heal any disease, or give us victory over any sin.
This is half the problem. We also forget something else. We forget who we are. We forget we are dependent creatures; we learn that in Genesis 1 & 2. God made us in His image, but we are not God. He made us accountable, but dependent on Him. God made man to eat, and also to produce what he eats. Animals can’t do that. God made us dependent on Him for food. Jesus reminds us of that in the Lord’s Prayer. If God didn’t cause the crops to grow, the rain to fall, the sun to shine, none of us would be able to feed ourselves. We are also dependent on God for breath itself, every heart-beat. Acts 17, “in Him we live and move and have our being”. Every breath and heart-beat come from God Himself. Also, we are dependent upon God for our plans. There is nothing wrong with making plans; we make plans every day. But they are all dependent on God. Proverbs 16, “A man plans his way, but God directs his steps.” Remember what James says in James 4 where he gives something of a reprimand, warning those who are engaging in presumptuous planning without reference to God.
If we are dependent on God in the natural realm: food, breath, how much more so in the spiritual realm? Can you fight the devil on your own? Conquer your sin on your own? Prevent yourself from becoming conformed to this world on your own? Can you grow any grace on your own? No, we are dependent on God. I’m convinced that many people fall into sin later in life because at some time in their lives they forgot how weak they are, how dependent they are.
Why is there prayerlessness among Christians today? I think the answer is a culpable forgetfulness. We forget about God and about ourselves – our dependency on Him.