We have been looking at some important aspects of growing spiritually. This evening we want to look at another important part of the process of growth as a believer. It has to do with prayer. Our text is another one of God's little verses that is filled with power. Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, 'Pray without ceasing.'
Once again we find that this is a command. Not an observation, nor is it simply a suggestion. It is a clear command from the Word of God. So how are we doing with this one? Last week we looked at the command to 'Rejoice evermore', but this one seems to be more difficult to obey. What does this mean?
I. The Meaning of 'Pray Without Ceasing'.
A. What it doesn't mean…
1. It doesn't mean that our 'prayers' are never to have an ending.
2. If that were the case, we could do nothing else.
3. If we are to literally never cease praying, then how could we work our jobs, eat, sleep or communicate with others.
4. I cannot be preaching this message, and praying at the same time. (you cannot be listening and praying either)
5. It just would be very practical to do nothing but pray 24hrs a day.
6. So the command to "pray without ceasing" must mean something else.
B. Is it a continual attitude of prayer?
1. That may be part of what Paul is talking about, but I don't think this is any more practical than praying 24hrs a day!
2. For me to constantly be in an 'attitude of prayer' means I must have my brain functioning like my computer.
3. With a computer, it is possible to do what is called 'multi-tasking'; doing several things at the same time.
4. Unfortunately, it is easier for me to upgrade the memory in my computer than it is to upgrade the memory in my brain!
5. I don't really multi-task well…do you?
6. I really believe that to "pray without ceasing" means more than trying to maintain a constant attitude of prayer.
C. So what does it mean?
1. I believe the Word of God is practical, and I do not believe the Lord would command us to do something that we were not equipped to do.
2. The Scripture reveals that "pray without ceasing" simply to continuing to pray.
3. Don't quit praying!
II. The Illustrations from the Parables.
(Luke 18:1) And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
A. Jesus taught using parables.
1. The word means "to throw alongside."
2. Most of the parables heavily use the words "like" or "as."
3. In parables the Lord would often compare the spiritual realm with something familiar in the physical realm.
4. But there are a couple of parables that do not compare, but contrast.
5. Instead of showing us what God is like, they show us what He is not like.
6. These two parables have a direct bearing on the meaning of ceaseless prayer. Let's examine them.
B. Note Luke 11:5-13
1. After giving the disciples the model prayer that is often misrepresented as the Lord 's Prayer, He proceeds to illustrate using this parable.
2. He speaks of a "friend" who goes to another friend "at midnight" and says to him, "Friend, lend me three loaves."
3. There were no 24hr convenience stores.
4. If you needed bread in the middle of the night, you had to get it from a friend.
5. This man had an unexpected guest and was embarrassed and in need.
6. His friend refuses to disrupt his family just to loan him some bread.
7. He finally gives in, not due to his friendship or his loyalty…but because of the continual knocking!
8. Jesus illustrates that God is not like the reluctant friend.
a. He loves us, and will always meet our needs.
b. If persistence will work on a reluctant friend, how much more will persistence in prayer touch the heart of a loving, gracious, giving God?
c. God responds to persistence.
d. So the idea is keep on asking, keep on seeking the Lord in prayer.
e. Pray and don't cease, don't stop, don't give up because our Heavenly Father is far more loving, far more compassionate, far more merciful and tender-hearted than any earthly father.
C. Note: Luke 18:1-8.
1. Jesus wants us to learn to keep praying even when our prayers are not immediately answered.
2. Again he gives a parable to illustrate and drive home this truth.
a. He describes a judge who "feared not God, neither regarded man."
b. He was unmerciful and had no sense of morality or justice.
c. Jesus said a "widow" came to Him seeking justice from an "adversary."
d. Someone had taken advantage of her and robbed her of what little she had.
e. The judge initially wasn't interested in her case, but "because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me."
f. What he would not do out of compassion, he did because of her persistence.
3. Again we see the contrast.
a. God is not an unjust judge but a merciful Father.
b. If persistence brings a response from such a merciless man as this judge, how much more will persistence touch the heart of a compassionate God?
c. Note vs 7-8, "And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily…."
d. The point of both of these parables is to keep praying, keep seeking, keep knocking because God loves persistence and will answer our prayers.
III. The Example of Jesus.
A. Jesus lived in total dependence on the Father.
1. As we read the Gospels, we constantly see Him praying.
2. Sometimes He rose up early to pray.
3. Sometimes He prayed all night.
B. Note His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion.
1. Three times He went into the garden to pray.
2. He prayed long and hard because each time He returned He found the disciples had fallen asleep.
3. He prayed so intensely and with such great agony, that His skin began to pour blood through His sweat glands.
(Luke 22:44) `And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
4. The lesson is obvious; if Jesus, who is the Son of God, prayed like this, how much more should we in our weakness "pray without ceasing"?
C. One more lesson to learn from Jesus' teaching on prayer.
(Matthew 6:7) But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
1. When we pray, we are not to say the same phrases over and over again, thinking God is impressed with our "many words."
2. We don't memorize little prayers and repeat them time and time again.
3. When Jesus speaks of persistent, earnest prayer He means continuing to lay our needs and desires before God and not giving up when at first they don't seem to be answered.
IV. Why Should We Pray Without Ceasing?
A. Persistent Prayer Glorifies God.
(Luke 11:2a) "And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name..."
B. Persistent Prayer aligns Us with God's Will.
(Luke 11:3b) "... Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth."
C. Persistent Prayer depends on God to Meet our Needs.
(Luke 11:3) Give us day by day our daily bread.
(James 1:17) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
D. Persistent Prayer Gives Us Cleansing from Sin.
(Luke 11:4a) And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us…
(1 John 1:9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
E. Persistent Prayer gives Us Victory over Evil.
(Luke 11:4b) "…And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil."
F. Persistent Prayer gives Us Fellowship with God.
(Psalms 63:1) O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;
G. Persistent Prayer gives Us Wisdom from God.
(James 1:5) If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
H. Persistent Prayer brings Us Peace.
(Philippians 4:6-7) Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
We could go on, but I think we are getting the point tonight. To "pray without ceasing" is to pray persistently, earnestly and not lose heart. We have the instruction and the examples from God's Word concerning the importance of this command. Our motivation is to glorify God, align ourselves with His will, to have our needs met, to have our sins forgiven, to have victory over Satan, to have intimate fellowship with the Lord, to find wisdom, and to be free from worry.