Day 11: Pray, Rejoice, Give Thanks
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)
When the Apostle Paul writes that God wants us, in Christ, to do three things non-stop, I’m immediately challenged. I’m not good at “always … without ceasing … in all circumstances.” Three actions – rejoice, pray, give thanks – are so important, they are stated as commands in the imperative mood, not just suggestions.
If we are going to follow the will of God for our lives, then Paul is telling us that expressing joy, praying, and thanking God are expected, not optional. And as often as I stop and realize that I have a relationship with the Creator through His Only Son, that I am free from sin and death, and that God’s grace meets my needs every day, then I have every reason to rejoice, to pray, and to thank God.
But it’s the adverbs that bother me. Does that passage of Scripture really mean rejoice all the time, pray without stopping, and give thanks in all situations? Yes, it does. When did we fall into the pattern of having to stop what we are doing – the hectic flow and regular busy-ness of our lives – to pray to God? When did it become “normal” for Christians to pray two, three, four, or however many times per day?
The Apostle Paul doesn’t say to stop and pray; he says to pray non-stop. He doesn’t say to pray often; he says to pray continually.
This passage wakes me up to my own bad habit of obeying these three commands as if it’s okay for them to be events. We schedule them, daily or weekly, with a start time and a stop time. Stop and rejoice, stop and pray, stop and say thanks – now get back to real life.
What if “real life” is viewing and practicing prayer as a continual, ongoing dialogue with our Heavenly Father, rather than an occasional voicemail message? What if we take Paul seriously and talk with the omnipresent God as our constant companion? What if we realize that what He really wants is for us to view ourselves as His constant companions? What if we are not just talking to (at) Him, but listening for His voice?
“Father, what do You want me to do right now, in this situation?” “This is what I am dealing with right now, Lord.” Always, without stopping, in all circumstances. Perhaps, to the extent that we can do that, we will find it amazingly easy to rejoice all the time and to recognize the numerous things for which we can be grateful.
That’s my challenge to myself: to pray without ceasing. To not hang up on the conversation. To change the way I view prayer. To engage in conversation with my Heavenly Father all along the way. I invite and encourage you to do the same.
Written by Dr. Dennis Glenn, Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness and Dean of Accreditation