In the closing part of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians he gives them a flurry of guidance in short, rapid phrases. It’s as if he says, “do this, and this, and this, and…” Verses 16 through 18 of the letter say:
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Here in our new home in New Mexico, at the end of just my sixth day as a pastor, I find that the phrase “pray without ceasing” has taken on a richer, deeper meaning for me.
Before coming here I had a pattern of prayer in the rhythm of my life. Praying in the morning before work, praying with my family at meals, praying with our daughter at her bedtime, and praying with my wife at the end of the day were regular parts of each day’s activities.
There would be other times of prayer, on a more irregular basis. At church activities. At my Bible study. With certain friends when we would get together. Sometimes while at work at the hospital, with a co-worker or a patient.
I knew that coming here to serve as pastor would give me more opportunities to pray, including not just praying with people but also more responsibility in leading people in prayer. It has been a joy to expand my morning prayer time by praying for the members of the congregation I serve. It has been a privilege to lift to God the concerns of their hearts.
Something that has surprised me in this first week has been the frequency of times during the day when I find myself before the Lord in prayer. As I have begun to meet and know people in the community there have been a variety of things that I feel compelled to bring before God.
There have been prayers of thanks for bringing me into a new relationship with someone. Prayers where during the course of a conversation I feel the need to lift a person’s concerns to God. And, especially, prayers for wisdom, patience and guidance for myself, for there have been a number of situations where I have no idea what God is laying before me or where He might be leading me at a particular moment.
“Pray without ceasing.”
And among my prayers, when I remember, are thanks for those who are praying for me in this ministry. For I can’t serve God’s people here well on my own, nor do I want to. I want to serve through the power and guidance of His Holy Spirit, and I am truly thankful that he has many people who are joined lifting me in prayer.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.