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January 14, 2021 3:00 am
Pray without ceasing, pray at all times.
Unceasing prevailing persistent prayer is so essential.
Prayer is an essential part of Christian living, and it flows out of dependence on God said nothing is discussed more in practice, less than prayer course that's not to say Christians aren't committed to prayer but we would all have to admit failures in meeting the biblical standard for prayer and what is that standard well. As the apostle Paul put it, you are to pray without ceasing. How is that possible, and how do your prayer habits fit into the health of your church. Find out today here on grace to you as John MacArthur continues his practical study from first Thessalonians 5 titled, the Bible driven church led John to help you understand this issue of praying without ceasing, like you never have. Here's the lesson. First Thessalonians 517 says pray without ceasing. The apostle Paul in this simple and specific command calls on Christians to pray basically is a way of life. I used to say praying is like breathing is just normal. It's just natural. It's just living for us.
We inhale, we exhale the atmosphere of the presence and the power of God. And while that is true.
It is also true that we who are dependent on God and who, if genuinely Christians do commune with God, do not pray as unceasingly as we ought to pray, we are guilty. I think of spiritually holding our breath while we would assume that the pressure of the very environment of God's presence would force us to pray, even as air pressure forces us to breathe. That's not necessarily the case, and we as Christians restrict our intake of the very presence of God due to our own sinfulness and so comes the injunction of the apostle Paul to pray without ceasing, pray at all times. Continual persistent incessant prayer is an essential part of Christian living, and it flows out of dependence on God.
I want us to understand this principle of praying without ceasing, and while just reading it gives you a certain clear understanding. There is much more to enhance the significance of that statement found in Scripture and I want to see if I can't give you some of the riches of what the word has to say a good starting point is to look at two parables that our Lord gave in fact, among the many parables of our Lord.
These two stand out as unique. They are unique for a very simple and interesting reason. All other parables relate to God. By comparison, all other parables relate to God. By comparison, in some way they are like God, they are like God's kingdom. They are like the way God operates. These two parables relate to God.
By contrast, they are not like God really only two parables Jesus ever gave that relate to God in a contrasting way these two parables show us illustrations of someone who is utterly unlike God, and in so doing make a very very strong point about this matter of persistent praying without ceasing. Let's turn to these two parables. The first one we find is in Luke chapter 11. It is called the parable of the reluctant friend Luke, chapter 11, our Lord gave it in a context of prayer.
In fact, the disciples had come to him and they said Luke 11 one. Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples and Jesus responded to them with the very familiar words, when you pray, say father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us and lead us not into temptation. The familiar Lord's prayer disciples prayer. So in verses 2 to 4 Jesus taught them what to say. He taught them basically the content of prayer. When you pray, you are to honor God and hello his name. You are to pray for those things that relate to his kingdom that you are to see the daily provision that he alone gives your to confess your sins and seek his forgiveness, and you are to ask for his wisdom so as not to be led into temptation those of the component parts of prayer. That's how to pray what to say when you pray, but beyond that, he said to them, suppose one of you shall have a friend so go to him at midnight and say to him, friend, lend me three loaves for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey and I have nothing to set before him, and from inside. He shall answer and say do not bother me. The door has already been shot and my children and I are in bad I cannot get up and give you anything you have to remember that in those days when it was cold the whole family got in the same bed for the sake of warmth and they were all tucked in and warm and it was midnight in this was not a time to get out of bed and get some bread for your friend. Verse eight I tell you, Jesus said even though he will not get up and give his friend anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give them as much as he needs. In other words, what he wouldn't do for friendship you'll do for sleep because the guy won't go away until he gets his bread. So Jesus is saying here is a man whose friendship will not allow him to make this gesture of sacrifice so the man just keeps irritating him until he finally has no choice. This our Lord is saying should instruct us about the benefits of persistence, but the point is really making here is that when you consider how unlike the reluctant friend. God is the parable becomes all the more striking if a reluctant friend will do something for you because your persistent. Imagine what a God who is not reluctant will do if your persistent that's the contrast God is so different. But God responds to persistence. If an unfaithful friend a reluctant friend an unsympathetic friend, a friend who lacks compassion a friend who has no mercy and feels no grace will because of your persistent asking respond what you think a God who is loving, gracious, merciful, compassionate, and tenderhearted will do if your persistent praying without ceasing moves the hand of God. In Luke 18. There is another parable that follows the same contrasted style in verse one of Luke 18 Jesus again is been teaching about prayer and he was telling them a parable to show that at all times.
They ought to pray and not lose heart. If you don't get an immediate answer if things aren't exactly the way you want them to be.
If things don't turn around as quickly as you might have planned.
Don't lose heart. You need to continue to pray, you need to pray at all times incessantly continually without ceasing, and then to illustrate this. He says there was a certain city a judge who didn't fear God and didn't respect man, you'll have to figure out for yourself how we got to be a judge but he did and there was a widow in that city. At least in the story, and she kept coming to him. This judge is repeatedly saying give me legal protection from my opponents opponent and for a while verse four says he was unwilling, but afterward he said to himself, even though I do not fear God nor respect man yet because this widow bothers me.
I will give her legal protection blessed by continually coming she wear me out. This woman is a pain.
What I will not do for love of God and what I will not do for love of humanity. I will do for peace of mind saying I can't take this constant badgering number six and the Lord said here what the unrighteous judge said now shall not God bring about justice for his elect who cry to him day and night and will he delay long over them. I tell you, he will bring about justice for them speedily see God is different than an unjust judge. God is different than a reluctant friend. But if a reluctant friend and an unjust judge will do what is asked because of the continual pleading, then certainly a compassionate, loving, gracious, kind tenderhearted God will do more.
That's his point. So Jesus is saying, in effect, pray pray like this pray persistently pray consistently pray at all times.
Don't give up.
Don't lose heart.
Keep knocking, keep asking, keep seeking and good compassionate, faithful, loving, gracious, merciful Jehovah your God will hear and answer some of imagine that such parables are contradictory to other things that Jesus taught.
For example, back in Matthew chapter 6, he said something in me. On the surface appear contradictory and needs to be understood in Matthew six verse seven Jesus said, and when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the heathen do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words therefore do not be like them. Your father knows what you need before you ask him say now is this contradictory isn't he saying don't be repetitious in your praying to know he is saying don't be meaningless, silly, repetitious.
That's the key word. What you mean meaningless repetition of the kind of prayers that the pagans pray they suppose they will be heard for their many words. In other words, it isn't that the deity cares about their heart. Isn't that the God understands the compassion, the passion, the pain, the longing, the desire of the heart. It is that there is some formula, some religious rituals.
Some ceremony some mantra, some chant, some something or other, some sequence of beads, some repetitious formula that's going to somehow make that God do something they otherwise wouldn't do.
Jesus was simply saying to them, don't pray in that way he's not forbidding meaningful repetition. He is not forbidding the pleading of the heart what he is forbidding is empty ritual.
Heartless babble that flows only from the mouth and assumes that God will be responding because of the words rather than the heart. So when Paul says, pray without ceasing, is not in disagreement with Jesus. He is simply supporting the principle taught in Luke 11 and Luke 18 that prayer is to be incessant.
We are not heard simply for our many words we are heard for the cry of our heart. The man who came to his friend's house and needed bread did not prayer formula ritual prayer. He pleaded for something he needed the widow came to the judge did not offer to the judge. Some mantra or some chant or some recitation of ritual prayer. The woman gave the cry of her heart for protection from one who had the power to do that and such heart crying, repetitious prayer is that which moves the heart of a compassionate, loving God. In fact, we can even start to understand, praying without ceasing. By looking at the life of our Lord himself since he did that he was obviously in constant communion with the father.
We see him in Scripture rising up early to pray. We see him spending all night in prayer. It must've been an unending and nonstop communion between himself and the father Hebrews tells us that he offered up prayers and supplication with strong crying and tears. That is a fascinating insight. There was an intensity in the prayers of Jesus that is utterly unique but is utterly amazing when he prayed on a number of occasions.
There was a great agonizing and we can assume that even though the Scripture does not chronicle for us all the details of all of his praying that it had much of the same kind of intensity as those prayers that we do see and have revealed to us in the text.
When the Bible tells us that he went into the Mount of olives and prayed all night. There was no doubt in intensity and that kind of praying that we know very little about if anything, the one great classic illustration we have of the intensity of his praying comes in the garden prior to his death where we see them praying there and sweat and agony of blood.
He is kneeling down in praying. Luke writes in chapter 22 saying, father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done in Luke right and being in agony he prayed more earnestly and his sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground. There is an agonizing, intense kind of experience here that causes the Lord Jesus Christ to sweat and then to begin to bleed in that very environment of prayer that strikes me.
It also strikes me that in Matthew chapter 26 verses 38 to 46.
It tells us that Jesus repeated the process of this pleading in the garden for three consecutive times. This was a prolonged prayer experience. In fact, we know well that it was prolonged so long that the disciples fell asleep on several occasions and so in this prolonged agony of prayer we get an insight into the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is quite unique me tell you what I mean by that the Lord Jesus Christ brought many mighty works when he was on earth in nine of them. Is there any apparent expenditure of energy. Though the Scripture says virtue went out of him. There is nothing that he does in all of the holy Scriptures in terms of the record of the New Testament which would indicate that there was any agonizing in the process of performing that miracle whether it would be giving sight to the blind, or hearing to the deaf, or speech to the dam or giving health to the sick body or giving walking capability to a lame person, or whether it was raising someone from the dead, or whether it was feeding 5000 men plus women plus children 20,000 people by the seaside, or whether it was calming the storm or whether it was walking on water. It didn't matter what it was. There is no record that there was any apparent expenditure of energy. Any toil. Any sweat, any drops of blood in some kind of agonizing to make that thing happen. There seem to been no wariness involved.
No toilet involved no strain involved no travail involved until it came to prayer and when he prayed, there was an agony. There was a wrenching of his heart is very being that showed up in his physical body. He prayed in and agony on the blood level of intensity that certainly speaks of the persistence, the Jesus indicated in Luke 11, 18 and what Paul had in mind when he said, pray without ceasing.
The early church was marked by this kind of continual passionate unceasing prayer from the very start, even before the day of Pentecost and X1 14. All the believers were one it says one mind and continually devoting themselves to prayer, incessant prayer, constant prayer, persistent prayer marked the early church when the apostles were structuring the church so that all the ministry could be accomplished. They themselves said we can't do all of these routine things but we will devote ourselves to prayer. We will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.
The next chapter 12 again we see the early church. Peter was kept in prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the Church of God, fervent prayer, incessant prayer, persistent prayer marked the early church when you come into the epistles. Whether your reading Romans Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, whether your reading first Thessalonians, you hear Paul exhorting believers to prayer. In fact, perhaps as significantly as any of those epistles is Ephesians in marking out the importance of prayer. He says in Ephesians 618, with all prayer and petition, pray at all times. Same idea pray at all times in the very epistle we are currently studying first Thessalonians 3 verse 10 he gives his own example.
We night and day.
Most earnestly just a way of life incessant unending ceaseless prayer Colossians. I love the testimony of the past for us the bondslave of Jesus Christ, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, a man of prayer in chapter 4 verse two of Colossians Jesus devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert units with an attitude of thanksgiving unceasing prevailing persistent insistent incessant prayer is so essential.
Maybe Coleridge was right when he said prayer is the highest energy of which the human heart is capable and the Christians greatest achievement on earth but II fear that if we conceive of prayer as some high-energy, noble, glorious achievement will isolated to a few grand moments in life is that, but it is also an incessant kind of communion that should make up the very fabric of our everyday existence. It does involve intensity that is the essence of prayer. God is found. You remember by those who seek him with all their heart wrestling in prayer prevails with God. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Said Jean.
So while there are those great noble moments of energized, energetic, agonizing prayer. Prayer also for us is a very very evident daily way of life. Sometimes it just gets more intense than others pray without ceasing, then, is the mandate of God to us the word pray here is just the general word processor come I the most common New Testament word for pray it could be praise.
It could be thinks it could be confession. It could be petition it could be intercession, it could be submission is just pray.
In general, without ceasing is a word that basically means recurring. It doesn't me nonstop talking it means recurring prayer.
As I said, just a way of life.
We are to be continually in prayer continually in an attitude of prayer. You're probably like I am. I I rarely ever fall asleep at night. Other than in the middle of the prayer. I rarely ever wake up in the morning other than praying it so much the fabric of my life to be in an open state of communion with God. Sometimes more intense than others, but always conscious of his presence, but I find myself going to sleep in the middle of my prayers and waking back up in the middle of them again. Scripture gives example of people who pray in the morning people to pray at noon people to pray at night people to pray seven times a day people to pray at midnight people to pray all night people to pray before dawn people to pray for days people to pray for weeks. Some will prayed long. Some prayed short. Some prayed kneeling, some prayed standing. Some prayed, lying on a bed. Someone prayed lying facedown on the ground. Some prayed hands up. Some prayed hands down some bright hands out some prayed face down some prayed face up its services everywhere. Everywhere prayer. Pray unceasingly not to look at our text again.
You see, this is kind of a companion to verse 16 verse 16 says rejoice always. Verse 17 says Perales really their partners in spiritual life and I have a beautiful balance. The believer all through his Christian life feels his insufficiency so he lives in total dependence on God as long as you feel your insufficiency and you feel your dependence you you are, pray without ceasing at the same time while feeling insufficient and dependent. You also know that you are the beneficiary of stupendous blessing from God. So on the one hand you are praying independency on the other hand you are rejoicing in the reception of the multifold blessing of God. So we rejoice always, because God is pouring out blessing in answer to our unceasing prayer defies a Christian live in a perpetual state of personal insufficiency, a perpetual state of recognizing my dependency on God. If I live continually thankful for everything he does for me, continually repented over my sin continually expressing my love for others, that's gonna flow in unspoken prayer to God and it's also going to cause God to open the sluice gates of blessing which will result in my joyful response, so we are not just at rejoice always but we are to take the path of that rejoicing, which is the path of unceasing prayer which resulted blessing, which results in joy if we are to be a healthy church. We must be praying unceasingly, we must be tapping the divine resource we must be knocking on the door seeking the loaves of bread we must be bowing the knee at the foot of divine justice pleading for our case to be resolved with equity and justice.
We must be going before God on behalf of ourselves and others praying without ceasing, for therein, do we release the greatness of the power and blessing of God. This is grace to you with John MacArthur. Thanks for being with us today.
John showed you how to pray without ceasing for your spiritual health and for the health of your church.
The Bible driven church. That's the title of John's current study along with teaching on this radio station. John also serves as Chancellor of the Masters University and seminary. John even said that prayer is like breathing in and should be the most natural thing for believers, and yet there are lots of Christians who, while they feel motivated to pray they want to spend time with the Lord. They're not sure how to get started any practical suggestions. Yeah, I guess the most practical suggestion is start than learn to pray without ceasing, just like an open channel. It's like you never hang up the line. It's just open all the time and you're in constant communication with the Lord. But maybe to help you little bit along that line. I want to mention a couple of books that can really get you going in the right direction. The first one is called alone with God rediscovering the power and passion of prayer alone with God.
It guides you toward praying more biblically and effectively by looking to the one who taught us how to pray, Jesus Christ. It takes a phrase by phrase look at familiar disciples prayer, sometimes called the Lord's prayer.
It's the model of all praying and to understand that is to have a framework for prayers that really will honor God.
Prayer takes work. It's a solitary battle that is won or lost from one moment to the next. It's a battle well worth fighting.
By the way, alone with God is a built-in study guide to help you apply what you're learning 220 pages. It's a full book. A second book, one of my favorites at the throne of grace is a collection of 50 of the prayers that I've prayed before my congregation over the years.
The book, my family prevailed on me to put together. No scripts to follow, but think of the prayers in this book is a kind of model for your own prayers hardcover book 250 pages at the throne of grace available from Grace to you so you can get alone with God, and follow the teacher Jesus and how he wanted us to pray, and you can get a copy of at the throne of grace some model prayers in which we put what Jesus taught us to practice both are affordably priced and available at grace. Do you yes and both of these resources can help you have a more vibrant prayer life and experience deeper fellowship with the Lord to pick up alone with God, or at the throne of grace.
Contact us today. You can place your order email@example.com or by phone dial toll-free 855 grace again alone with God is designed to help you build the spiritual discipline of prayer and the book at the throne of grace is a collection of prayers that John has prayed during worship services at Grace Community Church and it can help you shape your thoughts when you talk to God. Shipping is free on both books so to order alone with God and at the throne of grace go to Jide TY.org or call us at 855 grace and if you'd like to review John's current study titled, the Bible driven church. You can download all eight of these firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our website has ball 3500 John sermons available for free along with daily devotionals. A blog featuring articles by John and our staff and much more.
So go to Jide TY.org go there often and take advantage of the free Bible study to now for John MacArthur and the G TY staff.
I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for making grace to you part of your day and tune in tomorrow when John continues his study from first Thessalonians 5 Bible driven church. It's another half hour of unleashing God's true one verse at a time on Fridays. Grace to you