What would a lifetime of practice in these attitudes engender? If you took to rejoicing at every opportunity, keeping in prayer, and giving thanks at all times, what kind of person would you be?
I can’t stand those who take these verse, especially “praying constantly” and make them into Law. Christianity has never been about Law, but about Grace. We do not live in Christ by keeping rules. That was the error of the Jews, and to some extent still is. There is not a list of rules on this earth that will get you into heaven. Why? Because no one can keep them. If you were to say that a person must pray constantly to get into heaven, well, you’ve already been condemned, because you took the time to read this. Were you praying as you read this? No? Well, guess what, you just committed a sin and need to repent. Yet that is the mentality of many who read this and many of passages. They want to turn it into laws so that they can stand over someone else and accuse them. That sounds like Satan’s work (the Accuser of our brethren) to me.
Rather (and this is why I quoted this trio of verses, rather than just the one) these verses indicate an attitude of our life. God would not tell us to do something that we cannot do. I for one know that I cannot pray constantly. I don’t have that kind of focus, and my mind is fairly healthy. What about those who have short-term memory loss, or dementia, or a host of other mental ailments? Can they pray constantly? And would God condemn them because they can’t?
When we read these verses together, they sound more like this: As often as you can, rejoice, pray and give thanks. Always have an attitude where your life is characterized by them. It’s like when we say, “I could eat chocolate all the time.” First, we know that’s not a good idea, and second, it’s just not possible. But it does convey the idea that as often as it is appropriate and available, I would like to eat chocolate. When Paul writes these words, He is not laying down a new commandment, but an attitude of Christian worship and holiness. Always be in this mind, always be aware of your presence before the Lord. Those practicing such will find themselves in good standing with God, especially when their mind and body fail them.
Today is the National Day of Prayer. Because gatherings are banned, may I ask that you make some time today to be in physical and spiritual prayer. But do not think that you should only pray today. Today may be a mountain peak of prayer, but we don’t always climb the peaks. Sometimes we trudge through the valleys. Enjoy time with God.
Heavenly Lord, what a great privilege we have today to be in Your presence. You have made us and adopted us into Your amazing family of believers. I come before You today as one in awe. I don’t deserve to be in Your Presence. I find it difficult to believe that One such as Yourself would love one such as me. But Your word makes it clear. You love me, and can’t stand an eternity spent without me in it. I have never felt such love, and I need that. Father, let that love flow through me today to others. Help me to share that peace and privilege with those who don’t know it today. Thank You God in Jesus. Amen.