1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 17 Pray without ceasing; 18 In every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Dear brother or sister, do you pray without ceasing? I confess, sometimes, even when I pray, I find my mind wandering and I forget I was in the middle of a prayer. If we can’t focus on our prayer life when we are actually praying, how can we begin to pray without ceasing? Do you want a better prayer life? Do you want to pray more? How about more effectively? Is it your desire that God would hear and answer your prayers? The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much, does it not?
I think we get the idea from 1 Thessalonians 5:17, don’t we? God wants us to pray. We are to be thankful in every circumstance because it is God’s will that we are thankful in all circumstances. We have reason to be thankful, since we know Christ. In regard to prayer, I want to focus on one of the primary reasons that a Christian does not pray. What keeps you from prayer? Is it because you’re busy? Oh, I’ll grant that maybe sometimes we all suffer from the too busy to pray syndrome; we wake up 30 minutes before you have to be at work or church, so we rattle off a quick one. We all ought to improve in this area, keeping in mind that God knows our hearts; but the reason we do not pray that I want to discuss is sin. I believe that when you and I do not pray, that it is most often the result of unconfessed sin in our life.
Anyone with a sense of God’s Holiness ought to feel unworthy to draw near to Him. Think of the Old Testament times, when men were struck dead for entering the Most Holy Place if they were not right with God. Isaiah immediately realized what a dirty mouth he has when confronted with the presence of the Lord. (Isaiah 6:1,5) James says our prayers are effective, if we are righteous. (James 5:16). Who can live up to this burden? Does anyone that truly understands the Bible ever believe themselves to be righteous? Jesus said there is no one good, except God. (Luke 18:19)
So once a man feels good about himself, he tries to draw near to God. Once a man believes he has ‘cleaned up his act,’ he will kneel down in prayer, or bow down in worship. Knowing our unworthiness keeps us from Him so often. So a Christian who is living in sin, what is his problem? The sin keeps us from feeling worthy to come to God, does it not? It can make us question our salvation even at times. A truly regenerate heart might be so disgusted by its own sin, which is so abhorrent to the Spirit living within, that a person may feel that they cannot come to God in prayer. “Why should He listen to me?” we may say. In our society, we are so used to the concept that we must clean up our acts in order to come to God that the idea of coming to Him in prayer while in sin is rejected upon suggestion. Isn’t there a sense that even confession is difficult? Sometimes I feel like I need to “fix it” then “confess it.”
But is this rational? Is it truly reasonable to believe we can ever truly ‘clean up our acts’ before God? If all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6); if we are creatures and He is holy (Isaiah 6:3), then it makes no sense to believe we can ever clean up our act anyway. The fact that you may not feel like praying because you are in a particular sin is irrelevant…it is just an excuse not to pray. Let me repeat that. Whenever you have any reason NOT to pray, it is just an excuse. It is always, without a doubt, invalid as a rationale for avoiding prayer. It derives from a lack of faith in Him who CAN wash you clean. I tell you that you should pray without ceasing (as Paul told Thessolonica): most importantly in the times when it is hardest to pray, while in sin.
I will tell you that not only should we come to God with humility (Isaiah 66:2), a contrite spirit, mourning our sin (Matthew 5:3-4), but you can and ought to come boldly. You should approach God with confidence. How and why do we approach God with boldness? Because the scripture sayeth!
Ephesians 3:11-12 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: 12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
It is important that we understand the nature of being born-again when we discuss prayer. No creature has the right to approach God and ask anything of Him. God is entirely separate from His creation except that which He has declared sanctified: His heaven, His holy angels. None of these are Holy except that He has declared them so. No man is Holy by nature; we know that we all fell when Adam fell and that we are all born sinners. This is why He does not heed the prayers of the unrighteous, they are abominable to Him. (Proverbs 28:9) But when you are born-again of the spirit (John 3:6): when you come to saving faith in Christ and are baptized by the Holy Spirit into Christ (Gal 3:27, 1 Corinthians 12:13): now you are made Holy. You are sanctified by the blood of the lamb: washed: made white as snow. (Isaiah 1:18) You are declared justified before God and Holy in His site thanks to the imputed righteousness of Christ (Romans 4:25).
If you are born-again, when God looks at you, He sees His son. Let me make this clear, the only reason He will look at you is because He sees only His son. There can be no mistake that it is only His righteousness with which God is pleased; it is nothing in you that pleases Him. BUT, because we live by faith: because we believe the scripture that says we’ve been cleansed of our sin: that God has finished His redemptive work on our behalf: since we believe God’s Word when it says the called are justified and the justified shall be glorified: we believe we have access with boldness to the throne of grace.
Our belief creates action. Imagine a criminal who has fulfilled his sentence in prison. Shall he stay in prison on his out date? If you owe 100 dollars for a speeding ticket, do you pay 100 dollars then continue to pay? Of course not. Do you send your loan company 300 dollars if your remaining balance is only $250? Never. Yet Christians daily approach God as if you still have a sin debt.
We must believe Jesus when He said ‘It is finished.” (John 19:30) Oh ye of little faith! Read what the write of Hebrews says in the “great faith” chapter!
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
You must believe he is a rewarder of them that seek him diligently! Stop approaching God’s throne with your false humility; as if you can fool him with your words of deference on your lips while your heart inwardly doubts His very existence, or at least the inheritance He’s promised. Approach him with humility, Yes. Confess sin and exalt His majesty, dear brother or sister, but not in an effort to manipulate Him. His will cannot be changed; He is neither persuaded nor confounded by men. Yes, come to him mourning your sin and with a contrite and humble heart. But do not come to Him as anything other than His son or daughter. When you come to God, you must come to Him as if you believe you have truly been forgiven! You must approach Him with the boldness and confidence that comes from the believe that you are covered by the blood of the lamb, with the understanding that Jesus Christ has completed His redemptive work in you and that you have been positionally situated in the Heavenlies already! You’ve been washed. You are clean in His sight. Nothing can change that! Read Romans 8:28 to the end of the chapter if you do not already understand this!
Do you still owe God reverence? Certainly. But do not attempt to repay Christ for His work on your behalf. You can offer Him nothing. You have nothing. Everything you have is His already. Present yourself as a living sacrifice and worship and love Him while you ‘come to the water.’ Show God that you understand who you are and who He is by giving up your religion and coming to Him for all your needs. The only thing we can offer Him is our neediness, and He relishes to reveal His Goodness by providing abundantly for His children, spiritually speaking. I am not telling you to be cavalier or irreverent in your supplications to Him; but He has said we ought worship in Spirit and in Truth, so we must discern what is true about our relationship with Him.
So when should you pray? Pray when you’re happy. Pray when you’re grateful. Pray when there are times of rejoicing. Pray in times of tribulation and trouble. Pray when you evangelize, before you preach or teach and before you eat. Pray when you are waking, when you fall asleep. Pray every time you think of someone you hadn’t thought of in a while. Pray without ceasing! Why, if you really believed that God is the only source of all Goodness would you not want constant contact with Him?
And most importantly, pray when you don’t feel like it. Pray when you feel like you don’t deserve anything from God. My dear Christian reader: do not believe the lie from the devil that you ought not pray. Do not trust the logic that says, “I am sinning now, and God hates sin so I have no right to talk to Him right now.” Go BOLDLY to the throne of grace and get some of that grace! Trust that Christ’s substitutionary atonement on your behalf was MORE THAN SUFFICIENT for your sins; be assured that He knew you’d commit all these sins even before He chose to save you; and be certain that He demands that you come to God through Christ and confess in order that you might be in His will.
I know all too well how hard it is to pray in sin. How hard it is to come to God wen I don’t feel like I’ve been living right. There is nothing wrong with being ashamed of your sin, with knowing how UNHOLY you are in your flesh. Isn’t this required in the first place to be saved? But to have little faith: to live and to pray (or not pray) as if God hasn’t already declared you justified in His sight and offered you access to Him: now that is more sin, my dear friend. There is no place for faithlessness in the Christian life. Overeat, we will. Be angry and sin, treat other people without love, put money too high on our priority list we will. But please do not live without faith. Please trust the righteousness of Christ is far greater than your sin, and sufficient to make you clean in His sight, and worthy, by His grace alone, of the blessings of being a child of God.
What is keeping you from praying right now? Is it time to go to another webpage, or turn on a game? Do you feel disconnected because you haven’t been reading His Word lately? He has already removed every barrier; go to Him in prayer right now, call on your heavenly father. And if your problem is that you do not yet have a relationship with God through Christ…what is keeping you from proper worship? Why do you love your sin and the God of your imagination so much that you’d suffer eternal hell in order to enjoy it now. Life is too short, repent and believe the gospel today!