Bible Ballistics: Vol. 9 No.12 Will WE Pray???
“See that none render evil for evil unto any man;
but ever follow that which is good,
both among yourselves,
and to all men.
16 Rejoice evermore.
17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In every thing give thanks:
for this is the will of God
in Christ Jesus
19 Quench not the Spirit.
20 Despise not prophesyings.
21 Prove all things;
hold fast that which is good.
22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:15-22
We talked last week about the prayers of Daniel—a man of God, a man taken captive in his youth, a man who lived a life of devotion and prayer to God for over 70 years; a man who had a testimony of faithfulness to His God, even among his enemies, they didn’t like it but they recognized his total devotion to excellence and prayer. I’d like us to examine what God calls us, as believers, to do in regard to the kind of prayer life that we ought to pursue.
As we examine Paul’s exhortations above, written to the church at Thessalonica, we see a call to a life of separation and devoted, faithful service to the God that we claim to serve. The first thing that we see in this list is a call to honorable and righteous living. The Word calls us to live above ‘retribution’. We are not to “render evil for evil unto any man”. Our lives are to be lived in trust to the sovereign God of all! Daniel lived a life focused on God’s total control and not avenging himself.
“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” Romans 12:19
“To me belongeth vengeance and recompence….” Deuteronomy 32:35
We are called to live in acknowledgment of God’s sovereign control, trusting that God has all our circumstances in His hand. We can pray with confident assurance that “Our God Reigns”!
Then we are called to live in contrast to vengeance and “ever follow that which is good”! Not seeking our own welfare, but the goodness and righteousness of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit; extending the goodness and righteousness of God to those within the family of God and toward those outside of the family of faith. When we behave in this way, we are a reflection of the glory of God and the character of our Lord Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. Then our prayers won’t be hindered by our own sin—and yes sin can hinder our relationship with God and our prayers!
“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: 2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. 3 For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.” Isaiah 59:1-3
“your hands are defiled with blood—
your fingers with iniquity—
your lips have spoken lies—
your tongue hath muttered perverseness—“
And sometimes our sin is simply in our heart attitude. And a good attitude starts at home. We are to guard our personal relationships and our relationship with God—and it starts at home!!!
“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” 1 Peter 3:7
Our lives aren’t to be filled with the flesh or focused on self. We aren’t to have lives that are corrupted with lust, greed, lies and an obstinate heart toward God; but rather we are to reflect the glory of God in the expression of the fruit of the Spirit?
“But the fruit of the Spirit is
against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
“For ye were sometimes darkness,
but now are ye light in the Lord:
walk as children of light:
9 (For the fruit of the Spirit
is in all goodness
10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.” Ephesians 5:8-10
We are called to walk in the Spirit of God not in our flesh. (See Galatians 5:16 & 25) When we walk in the Spirit, we will experience a fruitful life filled with the presence of God—and that will make a difference in our prayer life! A prayer life that is imperative to the welfare of our own spirit, our families, and our nation. And that requires the diligence that we saw in Daniel. As an old children’s song says, “Dare to Be A Daniel”! Oh how we need more “Daniels” today!
The next imperative on our list is a call to “Rejoice evermore”! But how can we truly “Rejoice evermore”? Life is hard. Well, we can’t rejoice apart from true confidence in our God, and a heart and life that will rest in and rely upon His Sovereign Rule! If we walk in the power of HIS Spirit, who HE has placed within the hearts of the redeemed, those who are born again by that very Spirit! (See John 1:12-14) We have the power to rejoice in all our circumstances, when we have come to know that God has it all in HIS control; and by experience have come to know, and rest assured, that God IS working for our good and His glory and purposes at every turn.
Thirdly in our list, we get to our focus for today, “Pray without ceasing”! We can rejoice, and walk in the Spirit because we have a full-time intercessor–Jesus our Lord and King, and His Holy Spirit.
“Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27
How glorious that we aren’t left on our own—even in regard to our prayers! God’s Holy Spirit is ever-present with us, and when we can’t pray on our own, He will intercede for us. Oh what a comfort that we are never alone in anything—God is always there. But what does it mean to “Pray without ceasing”? Well, it doesn’t mean that we go around with our heads bowed, or our eyes closed, that would create some real problems with our mobility, and it certainly would create some real ‘distracted’ driving. We don’t have to do these things to be praying ‘ceaselessly’, but we do have to keep our hearts and minds tuned in to God. It does mean that as I pursue God, His Word and His will for me day by day, and moment by moment, I am both listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as well as sending up those “bullet” prayers as things come to our heart and mind. It means that those times when someone is heavy on our mind, it is NOT a coincidence but rather a “God-incidence”! We are continually open to the voice of our Lord, either for our own direction or to lift up those whom HE brings to our mind. It means we can always be open to making a difference for the kingdom of God.
“And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. 16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. 17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.” James 5:15-17
“And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:” 1 John 5:14
We can have confidence in the power of our God to hear and answer prayer. But we are never to presume on God’s love and grace, nor are we to ‘dictate’ to God what “we” want. We are to pray as Jesus taught us to in the ‘Model Prayer’: “Thy kingdom come……..Thy will be done…….” It is to be God’s will, and God’s purposes that we are to pursue—“without ceasing”! We must maintain the line of communication with our God—it’s the least that we can do—while being the greatest that we can do!
The next five things that Paul lists in these exhortations, all deal with our mindset toward spiritual things:
“In every thing give thanks
Quench not the Spirit
Despise not prophesyings
Prove all things
hold fast that which is good”
We must diligently guard our hearts, by having a grateful heart, by NOT quenching the Spirit’s voice to our heart, mind, and lives; by not rejecting the proclamation of The Word (especially when it is convicting to our heart—that is God’s voice to correct and lead us); by testing the things that we hear and see to be sure that they line up with the Word of God; and by holding tightly to that which is good, not the imitation that the world offers. Pursuing these will help us maintain a clear line of communication with our God, and when we keep the lines open, God will direct our steps—steps that will never contradict HIS Word!
“And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers: 21 And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:20-21
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.” Psalm 37:23
“Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.” Psalm 119:133
As the old adage says, “The Word of God will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Word of God!” The choice is yours and mine—will we immerse our souls in The Word of God, or the ‘world’? There will be a consequence to either. And I think that’s why Paul calls us, as he did those in the church at Thessalonica, to:
“Abstain from all appearance of evil”!
We must realize that we are to walk close to our God rather than as close to the edge as we think we can ‘get by with’! We must maintain a pure and holy life, an open and intimate line of communication with our God, seeking His face diligently through prayer and Bible study! So the question is, ‘Will we pray’? Will we recognize the dangers around us, and pursue the face of God to “deliver us from evil”? We are living in perilous times and we are to be the witnesses of God’s truth, especially in these ‘last days’ when the world hates our message. God never called us to fame, fortune and popularity—but He does call us to faithfully proclaim His truth, by sharing The Word of God with living that aligns with His Word as much as our ‘words’! Our lives are to be a reflection of the truth and love of God in all we do, knowing that proclaiming God’s truth will not always be applauded. In fact it may result in not only rejection, but also persecution for that truth. They plotted against Daniel to get rid of him, and we are not above it. Our Lord was rejected by the leaders of His time, and He told us that we could expect no less when we followed Him. Are we willing to ‘pay’ the price? Are we willing to “Pray” the price? May we be found faithful before our King!
“These things I command you,
that ye love one another.
18 If the world hate you,
ye know that it hated me
before it hated you.
19 If ye were of the world,
the world would love his own:
but because ye are not of the world,
but I have chosen you out of the world,
therefore the world hateth you.
20 Remember the word that I said unto you,
The servant is not greater than his lord.
If they have persecuted me,
they will also persecute you;
if they have kept my saying,
they will keep yours also.
21 But all these things will they do unto you
for my name’s sake,
because they know not him
that sent me.” John 15:17-21
Will we stand faithful with our Lord? Will we cave under the pressure? Will we pray? Will we pursue the heart of our God? Will we seek to pray “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man” that truly “availeth much”? We must! Our lives and futures depend upon it! God expects it!