God's Word

How Can Someone Pray Without Ceasing?

 Photo by  Joshua Earle  on  Unsplash

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Have you ever read something in the Bible and wondered how it would be possible? Perhaps there’s a lot of things you’ve wondered about in the Bible but I’m thinking of admonitions that seem impossible to do.

When someone asks if I take the Bible literally, I try to clarify what they mean by literal. The Bible is full of figurative language—language that has a meaning beyond its literal meaning or dictionary-based definition.

Even some things Jesus said to do weren’t intended to be taken literally—like gouging out an eye when looking at a woman (or man) lustfully or cutting off your right hand if it causes you to sin (Matthew 5:29–30). If we took this literally, then we’d know the truly honest believers because they’d only have one eye and one hand!

Pray without ceasing

When I first read the phrase “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17) and thought about what it meant, I realized this wasn’t to be taken literally. Or is it to be taken literally?

This phase is one of several admonitions at the end of the first epistle to the Thessalonian church—

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 Thess 5:16–22)

How does someone pray without ceasing? I mean, if it were taken ultra-literally it would mean never eating or sleeping or doing anything else. Ok—it should be obvious that the apostle Paul didn’t intend that. But what is meant by this phrase?

The idea of praying “without ceasing” is to pray in a continual way. This means we are to pray throughout the course of daily life regardless of circumstance and in all situations.

When you think about it—it’s very liberating.

The idea of praying “without ceasing” is to pray in a continual way

Prayer free from form

Our prayer doesn’t need to follow some form or take place with a certain posture. It can be a few words spoken silently or a continuing conversation with God while driving. Come to think of it—there’d probably be a lot less road rage if believers prayed more while driving in traffic and speeding along on a crowded freeway.

I believe there’s a place for more formalized prayer and I prefer to kneel or bow when praying on my own. But I’ve said prayers while talking with people in various situations—asking for wisdom, discernment, clarity, or for peace in a heated discussion or tense situation.

I pray while reading the Bible and have often thrown up a quick prayer while teaching and preaching or while counseling someone.

Sometimes I pray without words—I know God knows my heart but I can’t formulate my thoughts into a specific prayer or don’t know how or what to pray regarding some decision or how to respond to a situation I’m facing.

Learning to pray

I remember an instance early on in my search for the Lord that helped me understand the nature of prayer. I was driving a station wagon full of people along a highway on the northern coast of California. It was the height of the hippie era and I was spiritually lost but searching.

My girlfriend at the time was sitting next to me when a rear tire blew apart. I called out loud to God as I struggled to gain control of the car as it swerved across lanes and I tried to pull off the highway. Once stopped, my girlfriend turned to me and said, “He heard you and answered your prayer!”

It was a simple testimony of God’s grace and protection for both of us. I called out and He heard me. He answered. It wasn’t a formal prayer and I wasn’t a committed follower of Jesus. But God made it clear that He was near and attentive.

I’ve learned to pray without ceasing in various ways. I’m sure I’ll learn more as I continue to follow Jesus and become more intimate in my relationship with Him. I know He’s ever-present and attentive but am I trusting Him in all things through each day?

Faith is a journey of trust and prayer. Unceasing and continuing prayer is how we stay connected to the Lord along the way.

Faith is a journey of trust and prayer

What about you?

Have you learned to “pray without ceasing?”


This post was originally posted on Faith Hacking through Medium

Here are 3 more of my posts on Faith Hacking and Medium—

A Reliable Source

Rhetoric, Relationships, and Racism

The Practicality of Being Spirit-Filled

True Repentant Prayer

 Photo by  Angello Lopez  on  Unsplash

Photo by Angello Lopez on Unsplash

What does true repentance look like?

As I've written before, the idea of repentance gets turned around from what God desires. Too often it's seen as a person's responsibility to change the direction of their life 180 degrees in the opposite direction.

Although there's truth to that, it puts the cart before the horse. It's backward to think a person needs to straighten out his or her life before they turn to God.

The first step of true repentance is turning towards God. This is the change of direction that's needed! When a person turns toward God they turn their back on what they need to repent of and turn to the one Person who can bring real change— God.

The first step of true repentance is turning towards God

This is the essence of the first three steps of the 12-Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). AA and similar 12-step programs are geared towards the restoration of a person's life through freedom from addiction.

The goal of biblical repentance is restoration. It should not be an attempt at restitution. It's not about doing good or making good karma. It's about a restored relationship between a person and God.

The goal of biblical repentance is restoration

A story of lust gone wrong

The pursuit of a restored relationship with God is seen in King David's prayer in Psalm 51—a true repentant prayer. The life context of this prayer is found in chapters 11 and 12 of 2 Samuel.

The story of David and Bathsheba is a classic story of lust gone wrong—very wrong. The gist of the story is King David taking advantage of his role as king of Israel, committing adultery, then trying to cover it up.

David and Bathsheba is a classic story of lust gone wrong—very wrong

But God doesn't let David get away with it all, at all. God sends a prophet to David who tells him a parable with a foil—a trap David sets for himself (2 Sam 12:1-7).

The story goes downhill from this point with a tragic turn and later consequences in David's life—but that's, as they say, another story for another time.

A man after God’s heart?

King David was a great leader as a warrior-king but the example of his personal life wasn’t so good. He was an adulterer and murderer. 

He lied and deceived others—even a priest of God. His actions at various points in life brought grave consequences upon the whole nation of Israel—the people who loved him.

And yet, God saw David as a man after His own heart (1 Sam 13:14). What is it about David that God saw as good?

David’s prayer of repentance in Psalm 51—after his grievous sin with Bathsheba and confrontation by Nathan the prophet—reveals David’s heart and gives insight into true repentance.

What is it about David that God saw as good?

A perfect prayer of repentance

A look at David's prayer of repentance in Psalm 51

  • David's plea for mercy—Psalm 51:1-2
    • see how David appeals to God’s merciful compassion, authority, and power in his life to forgive and “wash” him on the inside—his heart.
  • David's confession of sin—Psalm 51:3-6—
    • David expresses his guilt and acknowledges his sin is ultimately against God—even though it effects many other people.
    • He also acknowledges God’s righteous judgment of his own sinfulness and wrong—that it’s the opposite of what David knew to be right.
  • David begins to request restoration—Psalm 51:7-9—
    • David seeks what is necessary for restoration to take place and acknowledges that only God can forgive and restore him.
  • 6 elements of true repentance and restoration—Psalm 51:10-12—
    • David asks God for a pure heart—a heart free from sin
    • David asks God to renew his spirit—to move from brokenness to wholeness
    • David wants to maintain access into God’s presence
    • David also asks for God’s Spirit to remain with him
    • David asks for a restoration of God’s salvation—God’s assurance of His forgiveness and acceptance in David’s life because of God’s mercy and grace
    • David asks for a willing spirit—he knows God’s restoration requires a willingness on his part to submit his life to God first
  • A glimpse of the benefit of restoration—Psalm 51:13-15—
    • David understands that his own life needs to be in right order before he can tell others of God’s forgiveness and faithfulness.
  • What God doesn't and does desire from us—Psalm 51:16-17—
    • David knows God isn’t interested in what we have to offer Him (sacrifices or offerings) for God desires a brokenness and repentant spirit and heart in us.
  • The resulting benefit of things made right with God—Psalm 51:18-19—
    • David knows that when things are right with God—blessings will follow and a person’s devotion and service to God are acceptable.

Step by step

What true repentance looks like—

David's prayer in Psalm 51 is what true repentance looks like.

First—to turn to God for His forgiveness and restoration—always the first most important step. Then, accept His forgiveness by faith and allow God to work His restoration into your life.

Can you relate to David's struggle and need?

Are you willing to follow his example of repentance?

Faith—the Simplicity of Trust

 Photo by  Jon Flobrant  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

"In God we trust" is emblazoned in green ink on our American currency. This phrase became our national motto in 1956. After 9-11, it became popular to sing "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch at baseball games.

The idea of trusting in God is woven into the fabric of American history, despite the continuing efforts of atheists to remove all mention of God associated with anything government related. But is historical revision really necessary? I mean, does America really trust in God?

I'm not talking about atheists or agnostics or the more current category of the nones. I'm wondering about those who confess a belief in God and say they trust in God.

Belief isn't trust

Trust in God isn't a matter of belief—what a person believes about God. It's a confidence in God and His nature (Heb 11:6). Many people say they believe in God, in Jesus, in the Bible, have faith, and so on. But that belief doesn't always translate into trust.

In the book of James, we're told that demons believe in God. They know He exists but they don't trust in Him, they fear Him (James 2:19)!

Belief doesn't always translate into trust

The Bible is full of examples of people who have a belief in God but don't trust in Him. One book of the Bible illustrates this well—the book of Judges. Thankfully, many examples of people who believe and genuinely trust in God are found throughout the Bible.

The obvious examples

Noah built an ark—a huge ship—because he heeded God's warning and trusted His guidance (Gen 6:11-22). God warned Noah of a cataclysmic flood. He believed God even though Noah had never experienced either rain or flooding.

Noah's obedience to God demonstrated his trust in God—a personal and complete trust.

Abraham, the great patriarch of Israel, became the father of many nations—people groups—because he trusted in God. His trust in God transcends mere belief as seen by his willingness to slay the son God promised to give him (Heb 11:8-12, 17-19).

God considered Abraham to be righteous and a friend, not because of a mere belief but his complete and personal trust in God (James 2:23).

Genuine faith is a simple, personal, confident trust in God

King David trusted God in a very personal way as expressed through the many Psalms he wrote (Psalm 23). He trusted God through many difficulties, betrayals, and even when he utterly failed God (2 Samuel 12:7-13; Psalm 51).

These three men led extraordinary lives and appear to have extraordinary faith. They did. They do. But this is the very type of faith—a simple, personal, confident trust in God—any person can have that exemplifies true faith in God.

Faith, trust, and risk

Faith, believe, and trust are common words in the Bible and may be used interchangeably. But their true biblical meanings are best understood and illustrated through the lives of people such as Noah, Abraham, and David.

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews gives many examples of these people. The genuine faith of all of them is described in Hebrews 11:6—

No one can please God without faith. Whoever goes to God must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Genuine faith involves an element of trust and trust is always a risk. It requires a commitment to move beyond the fear of failure.

Genuine faith involves an element of trust and trust is always a risk

Faith in the face of failure

Real faith—a commitment of trust—is often clarified and confirmed by what appears as a failure at first. Consider Abraham who was known as a father of those who live by faith (Rom 4:10-12 GW).

Abraham was promised a son but he and his wife tried to make this happen through Sarah's servant Hagar and it was a colossal failure (Gen 16:1-6). Abraham waited 25 years for the son God promised to give him through his wife Sarah (Gen 12:1-4; 17:15-19).

Even after Isaac, the promised son was born, Abraham's faith was tested beyond belief. God told him to sacrifice him! As God saw Abraham's childlike trust in his willingness to slay his son, God honored Abraham and promised even greater blessing (Gen 22:1-18).

The story of Abraham, Isaac, and God's command to sacrifice this promised son is a story all its own—a story of redemption.

Genuine faith is often clarified and confirmed by what appears as a failure at first

Faith is impractical

For more than 45 years, my wife and I have lived by faith in a simple way. At times we've been questioned and even mocked for the simplicity of our faith. Yet, God has proved faithful and blessed us with many opportunities to serve Him and blessings beyond.

Our faith was tested in many ways over the years. It still is tested as we move into different phases of our life. This is to be expected.

Faith is not a practical pursuit, it's a matter of trust in God and His faithfulness to honor our trust in Him (Heb 11:6). Faith is more than what we believe about God.

True, genuine faith is a complete and personal trust in God—a childlike trust. What kind of faith is needed to please God? This is what Jesus instructed His first followers—

I can guarantee this truth: Whoever doesn’t receive the kingdom of God as a little child receives it will never enter it. (Luke 18:17 GW—context– Luke 17:15-17)

True, genuine faith is a complete and personal trust in God—a childlike trust

What kind of faith do you have?

Is your faith more than beliefs about God?

Did God Really Say That?

 Photo by  Eunice Lituañas  on  Unsplash

Opinions abound... everyone has one! Here's one I liked by a former American president, "I have opinions of my own—strong opinions—but I don't always agree with them."

This brings up a couple good questions. Can all opinions be right? Can any of them be right?

"If you convinced me—And I convinced you, Would there not still be—Two points of view?" [Richard Amour]

Many people claim God told them certain things. But is this their opinion, or was it really God? How can we know one way or the other?

Figure it out

A multitude of authors and speakers claim they can teach people to know the will of God. But I wonder, is it really that hard to know?

Preschool-age children already know how to figure out their parents. As they get older, they know who to go to for a favorable response to what they want.

We learn how to discern this at an early age, and likewise, learn how to use this discernment to manipulate others.

Is it really that hard to know the will of God?

You can't manipulate God, but you can know His will. It's really not that difficult. The hard part is giving up on trying to manipulate Him to agree with what we want (our self-will).

A tell-tale sign of not hearing God's voice is when we think we have it all figured out. Then we attempt to coerce others to believe it.

When we deceive ourselves that something is true because we are banking on it, we then work on others so they will accept it. This is either an effort to deceive or leads to deception.

You can't manipulate God, but you can know His will

The value of listening

Don't get me wrong. I'm as opinionated as the next person. Sometimes, more than most. When I begin to hear my own voice sound shrill and uncompromising, I know it's time to listen, not talk.

You've heard the old expression, "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak." [Epictetus]

When my voice sounds shrill and uncompromising—I need to listen not talk

Over the centuries, or should I say, millennia, people have taken the truth, twisted it to their own design, and presented it as God's truth. This happens in all areas of philosophy and religion, among individuals and within churches.

Cultural swings can influence this. It could be the current flow of a culture or opposition to it. Think hundreds of years, not decades for perspective.

The earliest example of misrepresenting what God says is found in the encounter of the crafty serpent with the first woman and man (Gen 3:1-5)

People have long taken the truth, twisted it, and presented it as God's truth

Unadulterated truth

Jesus dealt with this in His time. Experts in the Law had tweaked and twisted God's truth into their own version of it. The foremost ones were called Pharisees.

It's no different today. We have our own Pharisees. Of course, we think it's the other guys, not ourselves. We brand them with libelous labels and separate ourselves as more righteous.

But when we do this, we hide behind the shadow of Jesus—our version of Him—as if He's on our side. When we do this are we any different than the Pharisees of the Lord's time?

Pharisees exist today but we think it's the other guys, not us

How Jesus made the truth clear

How did Jesus deal with this twisting and tweaking of truth? He often restated truth in its original form, its intended meaning.

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘Never break your oath, but give to the Lord what you swore in an oath to give him.’

But I tell you don’t swear an oath at all. Don’t swear an oath by heaven, which is God’s throne, or by the earth, which is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, which is the city of the great King. And don’t swear an oath by your head. After all, you cannot make one hair black or white.

Simply say yes or no. Anything more than that comes from the evil one." (Matt 5:33-37 GW)

So, it's imperative that we know and understand the truth of God well. Not our view of the truth or the dogmatic views of spiritual leaders.

It's imperative that we know and understand the truth of God well

How to know the truth yourself?

Last week, I shared of the value and importance of reading and listening to God's Word. But the first priority is knowing God. Knowing Him, in a personal way.

The first priority is knowing God—knowing Him in a personal way

Reflecting Jesus

How? A simple path is looking at all the invitations Jesus gives in the gospels. Hear them. Take them to heart. Let them become life in you. 

Here are two important invitiations—

“Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest... learn from me, because I am gentle and humble." (Matt 11:28-29 GW)

“Those who want to come with me must say no to the things they want, pick up their crosses every day, and follow me." (Luke 9:23 GW)

But how will you know His will? How will you know if you're following Him in the right way?

Simple. When your life reflects the nature of Jesus, you're on the right path.

When your life reflects the nature of Jesus, you're on the right path

Spirituality and the Value and Danger of Electricity

 Photo by  Jeremy Thomas  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

Electricity is very useful. It can also be dangerous.

Our present lifestyle requires electricity. We need it for lights and appliances, including our computers, tablets, smartphones, and wi-fi. If there's a problem with your car, technicians hook it up to a diagnostic computer.

Electricity, not just its discovery, but how to harness it has revolutionized the way we live. A bit of an understatement, huh? Though valuable and useful, it can be dangerous unless it is properly grounded.

Spirituality is similar to electricity when it's not grounded—dangerous.

Grounded

Electricity needs to be grounded to stabilize it. This makes it both safe and useful. Likewise, spirituality, that is, spiritual truth, needs to be grounded in a proper way.

Spirituality, that is, spiritual truth, needs to be grounded in a proper way

What is the grounding for spiritual truth? God's Word—the written Word of God, the Bible—stabilizes spiritual truth. It grounds spirituality.

Just as electricity needs to be grounded to be safe and useful, so also spiritual truth needs to be grounded in God's written Word, the Bible.

Spiritual truth needs to be grounded in God's written Word, the Bible

Ungrounded

Ungrounded electricity is dangerous. A good natural example is lightning.

Why does lightning strike the ground from the clouds? It's attracted by the positive charges (electrons) in the earth (the ground).

The atmosphere, filled with storm clouds, contains an immense amount of scattered negative electric charges. When they gather together, these negative charges seek the positive charged ground.

This is why it's not good to be exposed out in the open in an electrical storm. You become what the grounding that the lightning seeks.

The need for understanding

The natural world is God's illustration book for understanding spiritual truth (Psalm 19:1-4; Rom. 1:20). So, the need for electricity to be grounded can help us understand the need for spiritual truth to be grounded.

Have you ever flown on a plane in an electrical storm? It's exciting, to say the least, as you're bounced around in those clouds full of electrical power. It may be less exciting on the ground but it's a lot safer!

The natural world is God's illustration book for understanding spiritual truth

When I was seeking the truth, I wandered through a maze of philosophies and religions. It was confusing because I had no real grounding in my life.

I also found all these philosophies and religions to be impersonal.

One constant

One constant in my search for the truth was reading the Bible each day. I did so for a couple of years while I searched. I didn't understand much of what I read, but it stabilized me.

As I bounced around from one possibility to another, I saw consistency and stability in the Bible. It kept pointing me to a person and that person was Jesus.

The Bible kept pointing me to a person and that person was Jesus

Here are a couple of things I discovered in my Bible reading—

  • Jesus Christ—the Messiah—is known as the Word (John 1:1, 14)
    • This lines up with the account of creation in Genesis 1:3—"...and God said...."
  • At the end of the Bible—in Rev 19:11-16—Jesus is known as, "The Word of God."

The personal nature the Bible

God's truth—recorded in the Bible—is personal. Unlike the ungrounded, impersonal philosophies and religions of the world, it is grounded in the person of Jesus. 

As He told the expert teachers of the Law (the Pharisees)—

You study the Scriptures in detail because you think you have the source of eternal life in them. These Scriptures testify on my behalf. Yet, you don’t want to come to me to get ⌊eternal⌋ life. (John 5:39-40 GW)

God's truth—recorded in the Bible—is personal and grounded in the person of Jesus

The Bible and you

What's your experience with reading the Bible? Do you understand it or find it difficult?

If you'd like to know God or understand Him better, start reading or listening to God's Word—the Bible.

The Bible is not just a collection of spiritual truths, it's God's Story. His story of redemption for all people. It is a written revelation of truth so we may know God in a personal way.

Are you searching for answers? Are you uncertain about what is true? Are you confused by man's opinions and ideas about truth?

Each week I post an article like this one, a devotional on Wednesdays, and a simple Bible study on Fridays. The goal of all of these is to help seekers and believers get grounded in their understanding of the truth and in relationship with the Lord.

Getting grounded

Here are some ways to get grounded—

  • Read or listen to the Bible each day—even if it's only a few verses a day
  • Think about what you are reading or listening to throughout the day
  • Read and study through the simple Bible studies posted each week on Applied Truth

Here are some resources to get you started—

Many biblical resources are available online. If you're reading this, you probably have access to most of them.

Various Bible versions can be found to read or listen to, there are many Bible reading plans to follow, and several devotional readings.

Your Version Bible

Blue Letter Bible

Bible Gateway

International Bible Society

Daily Light Devotional