Pray Without Ceasing

Happy Thanksgiving! I thought today would be an appropriate day for a post since my tagline is: Be thankful. Give thanks. Live thankfully. This is my absolute favorite holiday of the year and always serves as an excellent reminder that I have immeasurable blessing in my life. Today is a day that is to be marked by giving thanks to God, and one way in which we are to do that is through prayer.

On my about page you will find Scripture that is near and dear to my heart:

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV

I think many of us could give sound advice on how one might be able to “rejoice always” or to “give thanks in all circumstances,” but to “pray without ceasing,” may seem a little outside one’s capability. That is a challenging place to be, but a growing place because whenever God asks something from us that seems beyond our ability, that is when we have to rely on his ability and we learn to trust God.

I was recently exposed to some beautiful imagery from the Bible in regard to our continual prayers. In Exodus 30: 1-10, we read God’s instructions to Moses and the Israelites for building the incense altar to place in the Tabernacle. In verses 7-8 God says: “And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it.  Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the Lord throughout your generations.” (ESV) What does that have to do with prayer, you ask? Turn your Bibles all the way to the end: “And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Revelation 5:8 (ESV)

As I thought about this, I thought, “Oh wow, I have made it a habit to pray in the morning and before I fall asleep.  I’m doing what this says without even having read the Scripture.” Then someone shared how the incense in the Tabernacle would have never ceased to burn and Aaron’s job was, essentially, to stoke the fire (charcoal) in the morning and evening. Ouch. Just when I start to think how amazing I am, God steps in to take me down a peg or two.

Before we move on to the practical application, I want to make sure I address a question that may have arisen for some readers: how does the duties of the Israelite High Priest and imagery from the end times have anything to do with how I live my life now? Let’s go to 1 Peter 2:9 (ESV) for our answer: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” When we receive the forgiveness of God through Christ, we enter into a royal priesthood that comes with a set of duties. One of those duties is to keep the incense altar burning, rising as a pleasing aroma to our most worthy God.

In the morning and at night we fan the flame with our quiet moments with God offering thanks and praise, seeking his will, and crying out for his mercy.  The continual burning comes from those times when we are struggling to offer grace to others and we stop to send up an arrow prayer to tap into God’s grace, when someone we love is experiencing hardship and we quickly ask God to wrap them up in his loving arms, when we see a reckless driver and we pray for God’s protection for them and others, and when we just stop and say, “Thank you, Lord,” for whatever small blessing comes our way.

This Thanksgiving, fan those flames, but remember to always offer a pleasing aroma to our Lord and Savior.

“Trust in him at all times, O People; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”

~ Psalm 62:8 ESV

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