“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22
How good is this Scripture for teaching us how to live the Christian life, to be a Kingdom warrior, to do the will of God, to live life with an eternal focus now.
1. REJOICE ALWAYS
2. PRAY WITHOUT CEASING
3. GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES
4. DO NOT QUENCH (OR GRIEVE) THE HOLY SPIRIT – The Holy Spirit indwells the Spirit of every believer. Jesus sacrifice on our behalf made it possible for our Heavenly Father to send the Holy Spirit to be our counsellor, teacher and comforter. He produces the fruit of the Spirit (9) in our lives and He provides the gifts of the Spirit (9) for ministry.
5. DO NOT DESPISE PROPHECY BUT TEST EVERYTHING (WITH SCRIPTURE)
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. Jesus said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’”
And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”Luke 18:1-8
This story by Miguel Lau of International Justice Mission demonstrates the need to persist in prayer, no matter what, until God provides an answer. Check out their website http://www.ijm.org.
Miguel Lau recounts how after a year and a half of opening the Bangkok I.J.M. field office our team had yet to get a first rescue. Our staff had already done everything they could. And then they committed to pray.
I felt like the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18 was speaking directly to us—to me. So, we decided to pray, every day, until we got our first rescue. We would just keep knocking. No matter what.
One of the spiritual disciplines we follow at International Justice Mission is daily prayer as an office. In the midst of work that can be so heavy, prayer allows us to shine light on even the darkest of challenges. So, every day in prayer I would raise my hand, ask for prayer and sit back down. At the beginning, I tried to come up with something encouraging or exciting to tee up the prayer. But I quickly realized that was mostly for me. And most days I did not have anything exciting to report. I just had the commitment to pray. So, many days all I said was “Please keep praying for breakthrough in Bangkok.”
To be honest, there were a lot of days where I did not want to pray. When I thought about everyone looking at me expectantly as I stood up during prayer—all of the people who worked so hard on the relationship with the grant foundation and the government, all of the people who sacrificed long hours helping us get set up, and all of the people trusting us with each decision to achieve this mission—and all I had to say was “please keep praying for Bangkok,” I did not want to pray. I felt like we were failing. I felt like I was annoying. But we had to keep knocking. God told us to keep knocking.
We did have some victories, including our first two arrests and convictions and a third grant to keep operations going. But we still did not have a rescue. So we kept praying. Every day.
Finally, on Wednesday, July 17, 2019 at approximately 9 p.m. Bangkok time, after four long years trapped and abused, the police and our team rescued a young man from the ship he was trapped on. The first rescue on a ship for our Bangkok team.
We had prayed for 15 months. And God had answered.
Not only that, but a second rescue came a week later. Again, God answered our prayers.
Then let the persistent widow be an encouragement to you. Just knock. Over and over and over and over again. Knock until you get an answer.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good.” 1 Thessalonians5:16-18
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
With God’s help, it is possible to be an image-bearer of Christ in the workplace — no matter how difficult. God will meet us right where we are in our lives. Christians need to remember God initiated His relationship with us. He longs to commune with us. When we consider prayer as our identity, it is no longer an action as much as it is who we are in the world, as God’s beloved children. In prayer, we open ourselves to receiving this great gift of relationship and grace, especially needed when we are in our most difficult moments.
At any moment and in any circumstance, the soul that seeks God may find Him, and practice the presence of God. Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth-century French monk, learned to practice the presence of God at all times. And you can, too. Many of the saints described prayer as “the breath of the soul,” including St Jane de Chantal, who defined prayer as “a wordless breathing of love in the immediate presence of God.”
When we think of it this way, it is possible to envision a different practice of prayer: one that brings us mindfully to our breath and our life. St Francis of Assisi and St Francis Xavier both practiced breath prayer, which were very short prayers tied to the breath (St Francis of Assisi prayed “My God and My All,” and St Francis Xavier prayed “O beata Trinitas – O Blessed Trinity”). This approach to prayer is one that can help us connect with God amidst our busy lives.
It can be as simple as:
Taking a moment to breathe and acknowledge God’s presence with you.
Inhaling and picturing God filling you with love, mercy, goodness, or another attribute.
Exhaling slowly, releasing tension or other feelings that may be hindering you.
You can also develop a short prayer, similar to those above, focusing on a simple phrase or word, such as “Mercy,” “Grace,” or “Love.”
God is with us and dwells within us at all times (John 14: 16-17). Continuing to John 14: 23, we are invited to come and make our home within God. When we see that God is all around us and within us, we can rest in knowing that we are surrounded by God’s presence and invited to come home to God on a regular basis.
Knowing that we carry the Holy Spirit with us wherever we go means that we also carry the presence of Jesus into all of our interactions, spaces, and relationships. As we learn to listen to the Spirit better, we also learn to listen to God’s people. They offer us opportunities to gain the wisdom, guidance, or encouragement the Spirit wishes to impart upon us, as long as we are open to listen. As we carry the presence of Jesus wherever we go, we can also practice his gentle attentiveness and listening, which opens our eyes to God’s most valued treasure: humanity. In being present with people, we honour God and experience joyful grace.
A few things we can do to help us practice presence include:
Develop a daily habit of remembering you carry Jesus with you into every situation
Remind yourself that the person in front of you bears the image of, and is precious to, God.
Set an intention to be present with the person you are with. Give them your full attention.
Keep your eyes and ears open for the whispers of God in the various situations you find yourself in. What is God saying or doing? How can you discern God’s heart in the situation?
This article is based on Tricia Rhodes’ Spiritual Health Amidst Chaos course available at Fuller Theological Seminary.