Pray All the Time: A Bible Study for Asbury's Worship
by Rev. Lee Johnson
june 20, 2021
In First Thessalonians 5, Paul writes what reads like a list of instructions about how it is those in the early Christian Church are to live and do and be. “Honor your leaders. Overwhelm them with appreciation and love. Get along among yourselves. Each of you do your part. Encourage the stragglers. Be patient with each person and attentive to their needs. Be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other.” That’s quite a list. At the end of it, Paul concludes the instructions with this: “pray all the time.” I’d say the final instruction is pretty good advice, especially if you are set on achieving the previous instructions. That because sometimes, to not snap at someone, takes prayer, lots of prayer! So, says Paul, “Pray all the time.” Begin by reading 1 Thessalonians 5.12-17. If you can, read it in different versions like the New Revised Standard Version or the New International Version. Note the differences in the language. Now, if you can, find the reading in “The Message” by Eugene Peterson. You may have to go online to find it. This version brings home what Paul says: “pray all the time.” What do you think Paul means when he says, “Pray all the time?”
You’ll note other versions of Paul’s instructions say, “Pray unceasingly.” Which raises the question, “Why is unceasing prayer important?” In Luke 11, one day Jesus had been praying. This is no surprise. Jesus prayed all the time, unceasingly-like. In this instance, says the Gospel, “he had finished when one of his disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’” He then tells a story about a man who went to a friend’s house at midnight, knocking on the door in need of bread to eat. The friend sends him away with the reminder of the time and the fact he is already in bed. The man persists, though. “I tell you,” says Jesus, “because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.” That’s it – “pray all the time,” “pray unceasingly,” and now “pray with persistence.” About this, Jesus goes on to say, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find, knock and the door will be opened for you.” But, apparently, only if you are persistent. What’s your prayer life like? How persistent are you in prayer? Are there times when you are more persistent? Why do you think Jesus encourages his disciples to be persistent in prayer?
Some say prayer is like having a conversation with God. In some mysterious way, prayer opens the door and allows us to know God more fully. God does not want to be unknown to us. So, prayer becomes a primary way in which God discloses Godself to us. Why not pray unceasingly, then? The more you pray, the better you know God. Or, think of it this way, the more you pray, the more fully you encounter God, and become connected to God’s ways – like that list in 1 Thessalonians 5. Name a close friend. What made the friendship close? Somewhere on the list, I suspect, would be trust that evolved over time through experience and conversation. The same is true with God. “Keep knocking at God’s door,” Jesus seems to say in Luke 11, keep knocking because God wants to give you what you need most. So, pray all the time, unceasingly persistent. What do you think? Do you encounter God more fully in prayer? How might prayer be the “building of a friendship” with God?
1 Thessalonians 5: 12-17; Luke 11: 1-10
Asbury's Weekend Worship: https://www.visitasbury.org/worship/
Beginning Sunday, June 20 at 11 a.m. for Live Stream or 5 p.m. for recording.
Pray all the time!