I remember hearing a story about a boy who prayed every night before he went to bed. He was tired from the long day and crawled into his warm and comfy bed. Like many of us, I’m sure, he fell asleep before he came to the “Amen” part. He mentioned this to his mother because he was so troubled and thought God would be mad at him. This mother, without any hesitation, comforted the young boy. She said, “Well if you never say amen, then you never finish your prayer.” What the mother meant was that his entire life was just a long prayer or conversation with God that never ended. While I like the story, the mother’s wit, and the message, as adults we know that God wants us to exhibit the spiritual discipline to stay awake during our prayers. Still, we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves because even the closest disciples to Jesus struggled with staying awake in a time of prayer…didn’t they? Well, that’s really a discussion for another day. What I do want to discuss deeper is this idea of a lifelong prayer. Today’s passage suggests, just as this little story did, that God never wants us to say “Amen”… or stop praying.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NKJV)
In the surrounding passages in Thessalonians 5, Paul is giving what I consider to be a snap shot of what our lives should look like as Christ Followers. Right in the middle of this snap shot, we find encouragement to the church to pray. He didn’t say pray when you’re having a good time, or pray when you have a problem. No! He said to pray without ceasing. That’s not the only point that he made about our prayer life. He also said, “in everything give thanks,” and then wraps it up with telling us that this is the desire of God. God wants us to have a lifelong conversation with Him. I remember back before Lauren and I were married. While we were dating, we would stay up late in the Student activity center talking. Both of us would be nodding off, only hearing half of what each other said. When campus was closed for holidays, we would talk on the phone, and when we wanted to go to sleep, we would play that silly game where we say, “No you hang up first”. I wonder where we would be spiritually if we put as much time, energy, and emphasis on our relationship with God as we do (or did) with that one we want to spend the rest of our lives with? Instead, we tend to say amen quickly to end our prayers and move on, sometimes even putting God on hold while we answer another call. I was told a story about a time when the US president at the time called Billy Graham during his quiet time. The assistant interrupted to inform Graham of the call. His response was that the call would have to wait. He chose not to put God on hold…but do we? We often allow the busyness of life or the sleepiness of our flesh to interrupt our time with God. Our prayer life is more than just the time we spend talking to God, however. Paul also talked about rejoicing always and giving thanks in all things. Pastor Kelly of Grace Baptist Church Seymour preached about contentment on Sunday. He said, “When we receive a steak that’s too well done we complain about it, while somewhere in the world is a person who would love our scraps.” We need to remember to be thankful for everything we have. All too often we run to God with our laundry list of needs and never think to be thankful as we approach His throne. As Christians, we can rejoice because there is no longer a veil separating us from the Father, so we can approach Him with our needs. We need to be thankful and enter into his presence with thanksgiving in our heart, for He has, is and will do GREAT THINGS in our lives. What God desires more than anything is to have a meaningful relationship with us. A friend of mine said that he may not say a “prayer” every day, as in “Dear Heavenly Father… Amen,” but he does talk to God as he is driving down the road. A simple conversation as we go through life, that’s all that prayer is. All God wants is for that conversation to be never ending.
Dear Gracious Heavenly Father, we rejoice at the mention of your name and the honor to come before your throne today. We thank you for the many blessings that you have bestowed upon your people and that we enjoy daily. God teach us how to pray without ceasing and to never put you on hold. Let us understand the importance of our communication with you and treat it as a gift and privilege. God, we do ask that you will lead us and guide us through our day and provide for our needs. God, we give you all the honor praise and glory. In the name of our closest friend, Jesus we pray. Amen.