Friday, July 6, 2012

Pray Without Ceasing

I Thessalonians 5:17

    Pray without ceasing (to pray). How are we to understand this passage? Are we to pray audibly, every moment of every day? Or shall we remain constantly in an attitude of prayer? This would be commendable, right?  Or may we discern that we should not, no never, cease in our prayer life, regardless of any situation or circumstance? If the lack of safety and of security looms over head as a darkening storm; if it seemingly becomes a great threat: shall we labor to distance ourselves from that danger? Or shall we draw nigh unto God: shall we pray all the more fervently? Is safety to be found in attempting to distance our selves from the impending peril - or to be found in the presence of our Shield and Defender?
    Pray without ceasing. If any man understood [or yet] understands this saying, it was [and is] our Lord Jesus Christ! “And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God” Luke 6:12.  The garden of Gethsemane. “And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus oft-times resorted thither with his disciples. Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons” John 18:2-3.
    Why did Jesus pray constantly? He is very God! He is the eternally sinless Son of God! He is Righteousness! What need had He for such prayer? One answer might house all others:  “Draw nigh unto God and He will draw nigh to you” James 4:8  Oh, how we need to follow His example! “Draw nigh unto God and He will draw nigh unto you!”
    Pray without ceasing! In yet other scriptures, Paul gives us insight into his own thoughts; the burden of his heart - what he prayed, for whom he prayed, the object of prayer, the focus of his prayer.
     “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers” Rom.1:9.
    “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” I Thes. 1:3.
    “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh in you also that believe” I Thes. 2:13.
    “I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayer night and day” II Tim. 1:3.
    These are prayers of thanksgiving to God. Paul thanks God for His effectual working in the Believers. His prayers are prayers of remembrance. As Paul prays he is brought unto remembrance of  his brethren in the Lord. As he  is brought unto remembrance of his brethren, he prays.
    I dare say that there are few times on record that Paul prayed to God in behalf of himself. Here is perhaps the most familiar.
    “there was given me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted beyond measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, [not prayed without ceasing] that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” II Cor. 12:7-9a. Though I cannot say for sure, but I believe it to have happened this way: “Oh Lord I beseech Thee to remove this thorn in the flesh.” “My grace is sufficient for thee.” A second time: “Oh Lord I beseech Thee; remove this thorn in the flesh.” “My grace is sufficient for thee.” The third time: Oh Lord, I beseech Thee; remove this thorn in the flesh.” “My grace is sufficient for thee.” “Lord, what did you say?” “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee!” “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong”  vs.9b-10. “Oh Lord, brand the declaration of your Word upon my heart; keep it ever before me. When I am about to pray for some need in my own life, remind me, even before I pray, “My grace is sufficient for thee!”
    Therefore it should be evident: praying without ceasing is to be predominately in behalf of others!
    If we would further seek to know what it means to ‘Pray Without Ceasing’ we might find the Old Testament to be a reliable source of understanding. And what Bible character, if we were to choose one, would stand out more than Daniel?
    “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of the  eunuchs that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes. . .Now among these were of the children of Judah, DANIEL. . .” Dan. 1:1,3,6.  Daniel over time became the first of three presidents: he was preferred: the wicked, prideful presidents and princes sought, through deceit and lies, to set Daniel up to be cast into the king’s den of lions. But the presidents and princes “could find no fault in him.” The deception: Now, O King, establish a decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed: “Whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions” vs.7b,8.   
Daniel prayed without. . .
  “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” Daniel 6:10.  aforetime: min, den, qadmah. Aforetime, a former time, antiquity, a priority. Were not the chambers of the heart of Daniel opened toward heaven; his face toward God, giving thanks continually?  
    “Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God” vs. 11.  No surprise there! Those men knew the life and testimony of our Brother! There was no doubt concerning his response and reaction to the statute fabricated by those men. Oh that our testimony before men might be even as Daniel’s!      
Ceasing to pray: is that an option?
   “And when thou prayest thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly: Matt. 6:5-6.
    Oh, Daniel! Is it not time to invoke another method of prayer?  Close the windows to your chamber! Enter into your closet and shut the door! Pray to your Father in secret that you be not discovered in failing to regard and show obedience to the king and his decree! It is unchangeable! It altereth not! (Dan. 6:8,12,15)  Listen Daniel: who’s to know? Publicly acknowledge acceptance of the king’s decree, but pray, hidden in your closet to your God. “You mean, LIE, to the king, to myself, and to God?” Then Daniel, just cease to pray at all to God for the period of thirty days! You have prayed without ceasing - now cease to pray; fear man more than you fear God. Daniel, what saith the scriptures: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people. . .Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles. . .Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme. . .” I Peter 2: 9a,12a,13a. 
    What is our Brother to do? Daniel, “submit yourself to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be the king, as supreme.” But he’s not going to do so, is he? Is there some law of antiquity that supersedes  the writing of Peter? But then, this is NOT the king’s ordinance, is it? Daniel DID submit himself to the king inasmuch as he was preferred above the presidents. . .an excellent spirit was found in him; the king thought to set him over the whole realm” Dan. 6:3,4. No, it was the presidents and princes who sought occasion against Daniel. They consulted together to establish a royal statute; not the king. “Daniel, which is of the children of captivity of Judah, regardeth thee not. . .nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day” vs.13.  It was their decree and not the king’s. It  was they who regarded not the king. These were a wicked den of lions, following the devil whom they served; going about seeking whom they might devour.
    “Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” I Thess. 5:17-18. Daniel kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God.
 A Prayer in Response to a Prayer. 
    Oh Daniel! Why would you put yourself in harm’s way? After all, isn’t your having the windows open toward Jerusalem; praying toward that City - is that any more than a ritual that you are performing? What is the purpose; where is the reasoning; why do you do it?
The prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple.
    “And now, O God of Israel, let thy word, I pray thee, be verified, which thou spakest unto thy servant David my father. ” I Kings 8:26. verified: aman, to build up, support rendered faithful, to be permanent, be true, certain, stedfast, sure. 
    And what is the Word/Covenant that God made with David? “I will set up thy seed after thee [Solomon] which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish his kingdom forever . . . And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee: thy throne shall be established forever” II Samuel 7:12b,13,16. The final words of David: “He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure” II Samuel 23:5b.
    Solomon, having besought the Lord to “verify His Word” now continues to pray: “Yet have thou respect unto the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O Lord my God, to hearken unto the cry and to the prayer, which thy servant prayeth before thee to day: That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place. And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place: and when thou hearest, forgive” I Kings 8:28-30.
    “When thy people Israel be smitten down before the enemy, because they have sinned against thee, and shall turn again to thee, and confess thy name, and pray, and make supplication unto thee in this house: Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy people Israel, and bring them again unto the land which thou gavest unto their fathers” I Kings 8:32-34. Sound familiar? It’s counterpart is greatly known and often quoted - II Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, which are called by my name . . .”  
The Davidic covenant that God verified to Solomon.
    God “verifies His Word” to Solomon:  “If  thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, and do according to all that I have commanded thee, and shall observe my statutes and my judgments; then will I establish the throne of my kingdom according as I have covenanted with David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man to be ruler in Israel” II Chron. 7:17,18. Daniel is honoring the divine covenant that God made with David and Solomon. He is taking God at His Word! “That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place. And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place: and when thou hearest, forgive.” Again, Daniel in opening his windows toward Jerusalem, the place where  God said, My name is there; praying toward the same: that God will hear from heaven, forgive the sin of the people and heal the land! The prayer of Daniel is not a mere ritual! It is a covenant/prayer!
   “Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God” Dan. 6:11.  “these presidents and princes assembled together. . .consulted together. . .these men assembled unto the king.” And we know what happened: Daniel was delivered - and the den of lions found in the king’s court was cast into yet another den of lions. . .
    This brings to mind another scripture in regard to ‘assembling.’ “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” Heb. 10:25. (Know that our adversaries cease not to assemble themselves together against us.)
On Ceasing to Pray: Words of Wisdom from the Prophet Samuel.  
     “For the Lord will not forsaken his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the Lord to make you his people. Moreover, as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and right way. Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you” I Samuel 12;22-24.
    “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in CEASING TO PRAY for you?”
Praying in Jesus’ Name. 
    Many today think to set laws and penalties against those who would pray in Jesus’ name. It is a declaration set in stone before the foundation of the world, a priority: the Law of God takes priority over the decrees of men. Shall men in their arrogance think themselves able to override, to make of non-effect the Law of a Sovereign God? Shall the creation think to bring the Creator into submission? What folly! We must obey God rather than men.
    “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” John 14:13.  “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you” John 15:16.  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you” John 16:23. “Whether  therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” I Cor. 10:31.   “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” Eph. 5:20. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” Col. 3:17.
    Do we pray after we have eaten, in Jesus name - or before we eat? Then should our praying not only end in the name of Jesus, but originate in His name? “Our Father, we enter thy presence in the name of thy Son Jesus!” Why should we not saturate the prayer; every petition, every supplication, every thanksgiving: present every request individually in Jesus’ name? He would stay at the forefront of our minds; and I believe that our Heavenly Father would be pleased and likewise glorified! God forbid that we simply end our prayer, “In Jesus name” as a ritual, that it come across as no more than  a tag or an afterthought. 
    Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing.  Note, the way to rejoice evermore is to pray without ceasing. We should rejoice more if we prayed more. We should pray always, and not faint. . . The meaning is not that men should do nothing but pray, but that nothing else we do should hinder prayer in its proper season.  Matthew Henry