#5  (The Church’s Stance While Awaiting Christ’s Return Series)




TEXTS:       1 Thess. 5:17   Col. 4:2   Psm. 119:164   Dan. 6:3-28   Eph. 6:18


INTRO:       A young boy once made a point on the importance of praying with a family who had invited him to dinner.  The boy at age six had been taught that it was important to give thanks to God before each meal.  As the host family sat at the dinner table and was about to dig in and eat he interrupted and asked, “Don’t you say any prayer before you eat?”  The host was embarrassed by the question and mumbled in return, “No, we don't take time for that.”  The boy sat silent for a minute and then said, “Oh, I see, you eat like my dog does; he just starts right in too!”


To this little boy prayer was important ... it should also be to every believer!  One of the most neglected parts of being a Christian is often our prayer life, yet it is one of the most critical parts.  God has ordained that prayer be foundation for much of what He does in this world!  We can miss out on a great deal of what God has for us if we neglect prayer.


YET, prayer is much more than just saying words to God with your eyes closed!  Paul admonishes the church in Thessalonica to "PRAY CONTINUALLY!"  But how is this possible, how can someone pray continually?


PROP. SENT:   The Bible will teach us that our prayer life consists not only of times of speaking to the Lord in prayer but also in communing with the Lord throughout the entire day ... to be in touch with God all the time.  Prayer is being in contact with the Lord as well as speaking to him, in this way we can pray continuously!


I.   NECESSITY OF PRAYER   1 Thess. 5:17a   Col. 4:2   Psm. 119:164   Dan. 6:3-28


A.   Command!   1 Thess. 5:17a    Col. 4:2

1.   Once again Paul uses the IMPERATIVE in Greek ... thus indicating a command.

a.   Prayer is not an option for the believer, it is imperative!

b.   The first century church had its problems but it was a praying church, thus the Lord was able to work in great ways among them!

2.   Every time we peek into the New Testament churches we find them praying, each time we read about the great men and women of the Bible we find them praying!

a.   It is impossible to think about having a healthy relationship with God without prayer!

b.   Just like it would be impossible to have a relationship with someone on earth without speaking to them it is impossible to have a healthy relationship with God without praying!


ILLUS:     For the Christian, praying should be like breathing ... just as breathing is the response of physical life to the presence of air so prayer should be the response of spiritual life to the presence of God! – Source Unknown


3.   Prayer is communication, it is the basic way we build and maintain relationships!

a.   Since God is without needs, we are the biggest loser when we fail to pray!

b.   God desires our fellowship, prayer is the contact mechanism!

c.   Praying is the only universal 1-800 number!  It is free and the lines are always open, there are no busy signals or answering machines!  The line is always static free and it is better than cellular, call anytime even without a hands free unit!  (1-800-THE LORD)


B.   Critical   1 Thess. 5:17a   Psm. 119:164   Dan. 6:3-28

1.   For those men and women who overcame great odds or sin in the Bible, praying was critical to that success!

a.   David mentions in Psm. 119:164 that he prayed 7 times a day!  (Probably the use of "7" simply meant "complete" as the "7 spirits before the throne of God" in Revelation meant the complete or perfect "Holy Spirit")

b.   David's point was that prayer was important to him, for his daily life with God to be complete he was in constant communion with the Lord!

c.   DANIEL is a good example of how critical prayer was to his life with God, in Dan. 6:3-28 it is stated that it was his usual practice to pray 3 times a day ... to Daniel a normal day was one where he was in contact with God at regular intervals!  The day was not complete without it!

d.   The story of Daniel's testimony and the victory in the lion's den could not have happened without his prayer life!  NOTE:  It was his faithful prayer life that caused the whole incident of the lion's den ... he was trapped by laws forbidding praying to any other God other than the king and those who laid the trap knew they could count on him praying to his God faithfully 3 times a day, they knew he was as good as guilty!  How many Christians today would be convicted by the evidence if they were taken to court for praying?

2.   PRAYER is critical for the Christian and the church!


ILLUS:    A tavern was being built in a small town where no bar had ever existed before.  A group of Christians in one of the local evangelical churches opposed this and they held prayer meetings to pray against this bar, asking God to intervene.  A terrible storm came shortly after a prayer meeting and lightning struck the new tavern, burning it to the ground!  The owner brought a lawsuit against the church, claiming they were responsible.  The Christians hired a lawyer, claiming they were NOT responsible!  At the trial the judge said, "No matter how this case comes out, one thing is clear:  THE TAVERN OWNER believes in the power of PRAYER, but evidently the Christians DO NOT!"  PRAYER IS CRITICAL! – Source Unknown


3.   We must not claim the importance of prayer and ignore it in our practice or we will never know its power in our lives and others won't know it either!


ILLUS:     Richard Halverson (Pastored 4th Presbyterian in Washington D.C. ... one of the great preachers of this century as well as former Chaplain for the U.S. Senate) had invited a Senator to come and speak to a large group of men that were having their annual men's dinner together.  Several hundred men showed up and just before the Senator spoke the subject of prayer in the public schools came up.  The Senator got up to speak and so asked the men since the subject came up, "How many of you men favor having prayer in the public schools" ... nearly every man raised his hand in the affirmative!  Then the Senator asked a second question, "How many of you men pray daily with your own children in your home?"  This time only a few hands were raised!  I wonder how this influenced this Senator's feelings about prayer in public schools!? – Source Unknown


4.   Prayer is critical; it is our lifeline to God!  It is our communication network with God, it cannot be optional!  IT IS A NECESSITY!'


II.  NATURE OF PRAYER   1 Thess. 5:17b   Eph. 6:18


A.   Communion

1.   Prayer is much more than just verbalizing to God at select moments of time!

a.   If prayer was only verbal this command of Paul's would be impossible ... and ludicrous!

b.   To pray continually would mean to ignore everything else if it meant only verbal prayers.

c.   Like locking ourselves up in a monastery and doing nothing but praying!

2.   Prayer is much more than just verbal communication ... it is communion of our mind and heart with God at all times, being in contact in with God.

a.   Having our heart and mind on Him all through the day, being conscious of His presence and being in "TUNE" with Him at all times!

b.   It is therefore not only what we say at scheduled times of prayer but the constant sense of communion with the Lord throughout our waking hours!

3.   Like those moments when you are trying to decide what the right thing to do is and you stop to inwardly say, "How do you feel about this Lord?"

a.   It is that sense of God's presence and our communing with Him all through the day that gives "PRAYING CONTINUALLY" a reality!

b.   It is like the awareness of God's presence being in touch with your life at all times!

c.   This results in spontaneous prayers at a moment’s notice from your heart to God's heart all through the day!

4.   Therefore it is that constant sense of communion with the Lord that Paul has in mind when he commands the Christians in this text to “PRAY CONTINUALLY!”

a.   Never be without that contact with the Lord throughout the day.

b.   This constant sense of contact will be the thing that will help you overcome temptation and give a steady sense of victory over sin!

c.   With the communion of the Lord as a steady aspect of daily life God's power will manifest itself in great ways in your life, and the other aspect of prayer which is the verbal momentary times will also be there as the natural expression of an attitude of prayer all day!

5.   It is more important this communion of the heart with God as prayer than just the mere words we might speak!


ILLUS:     The elders of a certain church once came to a young man to criticize some of the theology and vocabulary the young man had used in his prayers when he prayed publicly in the church.  After they had laid their load on him he turned to them and said, "Are you gentlemen finished?  I have just one thing to say, I wasn't speaking to you!"  The vocabulary didn't matter, his heart did!  Too often we focus on just the words, God looks on the heart! – Source Unknown


6.   Anyone can pray, you don't have to know the right expressions or the correct format, new baby Christians can pray and pray effectively because it is the communion of the heart that is the substance of prayer.  This communion can be constant!


ILLUS:    Like a couple in love, many times when they are together nothing is said but their hearts are one, their thoughts are always on one another, they can communicate with each other without saying a word, just a look, a certain gesture, so much is communicated without words ... their hearts are united, yes, there will be verbal expressions as well, but they commune with each other all the time because of the love they have for one another! – Source Unknown


7.   When we are really in love with the Lord that same kind of communion with Him takes place, there are certainly those moments when we verbalize our prayers to Him ... but all day we can be in communion (prayer) with Him, our thoughts, our gestures, our every activity is "prayerful!"


B.   Continual    1 Thess. 5:17b   Eph. 6:18

1.   Interestingly, the word translated here in 1 Thess. 5:17 "CONTINUALLY" was the same word used in secular writings of Paul's day for "HACKING COUGH!"

a.   Like something that just doesn't let up or go away!

b.   Like something that cannot be controlled, it becomes a reflex action.

c.   This is the idea of this kind of prayer life; it doesn't let up or go away, it is more like a reflex ... something that cannot be stopped in the heart of a real Christian!

2.   It took a prayer to get us into the Kingdom of God (the sinner’s prayer) ... and it will be prayer that keeps us going in the Kingdom of God!

a.   Jesus was continually in prayer and if He needed it when He was perfect how much more do we who are not perfect need it!

b.   Prayer is one discipline that should not be ignored in the Christian life!

3.   God is not looking for people who pray perfectly, or those who know the proper Christian phrases, or the exact theology of prayer, God simply desires communion with us as His Children!  This is what prayer is ... COMMUNION WITH GOD!

4.   Your prayer life will grow and mature as you engage in prayer more and more!  As I said, it is not just the words, it is the relationship of prayer that Jesus is interested in!


ILLUS:     When children first start to color they have two problems; first, they might choose colors that are inappropriate, second, once those colors are chosen they have a difficult time keeping the colors within the boundary lines.  As they mature and keep on coloring they learn to keep within the guidelines and to choose the appropriate colors, resulting in a satisfying picture.  As children of our Heavenly Father our prayer life often resembles a child's coloring.  At first we don't know what to pray for nor do our prayers stay within the guidelines of His will.  As we mature and continue praying we pray for the right things and stay within His will, resulting in a satisfying prayer life!  Give yourself time and allow for growth!  God loves the prayers of baby Christians just a much as mature saints, just as parents love the pictures their children first drew in love for them as well as the more developed art they may do later! – Source Unknown


5.   A healthy prayer life will give you so much joy and fulfillment, the contact and communion with God will give you strength you never thought possible!

6.   Praying continually is not impossible when prayer is understood in its fullest dimensions!

a.   Communion with the Lord can happen all during your waking hours!

b.   When this communion exists it sparks the verbal times of prayer ... and even creates those times of spontaneous prayer throughout the day!

7.   Our Lord loves to be in contact with us, this is what prayer is, our communication link with our God!

a.   Don't miss out on a wonderful lifetime experience!

b.   God desires your fellowship, your thoughts, your heart, and your expressions in words!

8.   Why not do yourself a favor and bless the Lord your God by developing your prayer life!


CONCLUSION:    Prayer is far more than just saying words to God with your eyes shut!  It is both the conscious moments of saying prayers with our mouths and the conscious and unconscious communion we have with God throughout the day.  Neither one should be ignored!  Prayer is vital to the believer and the church while it awaits the return of Christ.