In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul tells us to “Pray without ceasing”. Now that doesn’t mean to be in constant prayer throughout every hour of every day. What it actually means is to not give up on prayer.
Why did Paul tell us to never stop praying? One of the primary reasons why we pray is to acknowledge our complete dependence upon God and the total dependability of Him in all of our circumstances. Let’s top right here. Do we really believe this? In most cases, I would say “Yes”, most Christians really believe this. Then if we do, do we live like we believe it? And in most cases, I would say, “No”, most Christians don’t live it. (Incidentally, I am in the group of “most Christians” in case you were wondering.)
We go through life, day by day, way too often, in our own world, doing what we think is best for our day. Whatever we choose to do, we have made the choice and away we go, marching to the beat of our own drum, accomplishing (or trying to anyway) the tasks we have set before us. And even though we don’t think about it too often, it’s right there where we have a problem: exactly where is God in this?
Answer: He’s missing. Oh, He’s not missing in that He isn’t with us; He most certainly is. But His input is missing. And by ignoring or not caring about His thoughts, directions, guidance, care, and love for us for that day, we go out into the world in our own wisdom, in our own power, in our own direction, without any protection against the world who hates us, and without knowing if the path we have chosen is even close to the one that our blessed Savior wants us to take.
This is similar to the man who is in his car, knows where he wants to go, gets lost (let’s say this is before GPS), but won’t ask anyone how to get back on the right road to get him to his destination. Sounds pretty dumb doesn’t it? Yet that’s been done a million times! And what’s the result? Maybe the driver accidentally finds his way back to the right road. But even if he does, he has had anxiety and anger through the whole ordeal and may have lost precious time along the way. But for most, they continue to be lost, maybe even getting more lost, and eventually have to find someone who knows the way. Again, frustration, anger, embarrassment, and lost time are the result.
But had the man actually searched out a good map, and followed it closely, he would have gotten to his destination in the right amount of time, even if he had never been on the roads before, enjoying the drive, and being calm and confident along the way.
When we don’t start our day in prayer we’re much like the man who plans out his trip, knows where he wants to go, but gets lost along the way because he didn’t know how to get there without directions or help, but willingly – stubbornly – chose not to seek out the assistance he needed.
So why do we do it? Because like the man in the illustration, we think we’re smart enough and know what we’re doing. While God will give us the choice of how to get to our destination (whatever that may be), He always knows where He’d like us to go, He always knows how to lead us, and He always knows how to protect us throughout the day. He knows where He wants to take us even if it may be in a different direction than we had planned.
So maybe its time that we change the start of each day and put it into God’s hands. And just how should we do that? “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding [my emphasis].” (KJV) Proverbs 3:5
So let’s bring this back to last night. Here’s what I learned: I need to give my day to the Lord, not planning anything without going to Him first, asking Him what He would have me do this day, and trusting that He knows so much better than do I what He would have me do. What might be the result? Maybe I’m driving down a street at a time when someone needs some help. Maybe I run into someone at the store who needs prayer. Maybe I find myself going to Him more throughout the day because I know I’ve given it to Him. Maybe I see His glory more often throughout the day as I see my day unfold and watch His love for me show through like the sun breaking through dark clouds.
And as I make this a habit, I will undoubtedly find that I will begin to trust Him more, I will begin to give Him more of my time, I will begin to better understand His love for me and I begin to love Him more, I will begin to see How much more wise He is than me, I will begin to see how dumb and sinful I was trying to go through life my way, and I will begin to see that the best way to be His child is to ask Him what I can do this day to please Him, to love Him, and to follow Him. And I will finally see that that will be the best way to glorify Him and to have “the weight of His glory fall upon me”.
It was through prayer that our guest pastor last night found himself witnessing to men who were putting poison in their veins. It was through prayer that those men left that area each having received a free copy of God’s Holy Word and having been prayed for. It was through prayer that this man found himself praying for and offering help to men who were sleeping on concrete steps. It was through prayer that God led this man to a group of men he had never seen before or since, hopping on a bus, and ask them if he could lift them up to the King of heaven. It was through prayer that led the pastor and his family to sell everything they owned to go plant a Christ-glorifying church in a different country. It was through prayer that led this man of God back home to serve the King of Glory in new and different ways. Yes, it took a willingness to push the flesh aside and obey the direction of the Holy Spirit within him in each of these cases, but he did so once again through prayer.
He had good, godly advise for each of us: do not be led through life by a spirit of fear for God has overcome it all. Be wise he said, but don’t be afraid. Do what His Spirit is asking you to do (and we won’t know what this is if we don’t pray!). Whether it’s something big or something small, it matters not: just do what He’s asking you to do. It probably won’t be easy. Most of us have decades of living our lives the way we want to. Most of us don’t put our Lord first often enough in everything we do. Most of us are a bit unwilling to carry our cross daily for His glory. But that’s exactly where prayer comes in: it sets us with our eyes fixed on our loving Savior.
And as the hymn writer wrote,
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace. 1
Now “the things of the earth” may not only be physical things, but include fear and anxiety as well. Our guest pastor has turned his eyes upon Jesus and has seen Him and embraced Him, following Him and always striving to be a better disciple. And in doing so, his fears, his anxieties, his desires apart from the Lord’s, have all grown strangely dim.
I want to be like that man.
- Turn your Eyes Upon Jesus was inspired by a tract written by Lilias Trotter, a missionary to Algeria. Trotter was writing about the difficulty of maintaining focus while living in a world that provides us with so many choices. She gave this prescription for keeping one’s life moving in the right direction: Turn your soul’s vision to Jesus, and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him.