Six days left, and those are the six days leading to a sealed tomb on Holy Saturday, when to the disciples it appeared their hopes had been dashed. Not an image conducive to unceasing prayer, but instead to giving up the effort. But then comes the seventh day, the day of completion and everything is changed. But we need to save that for later.
I had some thoughts on this continuous prayer command during services this morning. Some of them went back to Adam and the garden, some went forward to the throng before the throne in Revelation. But I decided to first cover what others have thought about this passage.
John MacArthur focuses on several parables that center in on persistence, on how God will hear our persistent prayer. He has a lot more to say but persistence is the key.
Leon Morris quotes Lightfoot, “It is not with the moving of the lips, but the elevation of the heart to God, that the essence of prayer consists,” and then talks about the “spirit of prayer” and how it is possible to always be in such an inward state.
Calvin centers the issue in the verse preceding, “always rejoicing,” in that our prayer should always be filled with an attitude of joy and not be a way to murmur against God. “Since, in every moment, the trials and tribulations of life assault us, it is only by our constant prayer centered in rejoicing that we are able to maintain our peace and keep our joy from being driven away.”
Matthew Henry seems to agree with Calvin saying, “The way to rejoice evermore is to pray without ceasing. We should rejoice more if we prayed more.” Later, he kinds of turns the verse on its head, at least from my perspective, when he says, “The meaning is not that men should do nothing but pray, but that nothing else we do should hinder prayer in its proper season.”
F.F. Bruce leans toward Leon Morris and says, “Christian life is to be lived in an atmosphere of continual joy, prayer and gratitude to God.”
J.I. Packer says, “…our whole life should be a life of prayer, in constant communion with God. Yet, we should not think that God hears a particular request because of the repetition of many words.”
The main themes I get out of that are:
1. Persistence. Continual prayer is persistent prayer.
2. Attitude or spirit. Continual prayer is the attitude or spirit of our heart as we approach God throughout our day.
3. Rejoicing. Part of our attitude is keyed to our willingness to rejoice in all things.
4. Life. It is who we are, the measure of our life.
But all of those explanations left me feeling incomplete or even off course. It has to be more than joy and persistence. It is even more than an attitude or spirit. I can agree that it can be argued that it is who we are, but that doesn’t really explain anything or lead us into a better understanding of how to meet this command God has given us, at least it doesn’t for me.
So, you ask me, what do you think? First let me say I chose those commentators because they represent the cream of Christian commentators over the years. There are others, but these are more than representative. That said, I fully understand how meager I am compared to these great men of faith. However, I started down this road and I am trying to follow where it leads me.
I will try to explore that path the rest of this week. Work is still crazy, but it is Holy Week and I did get some additional rest this weekend. May God bless my deliberations and may the Spirit of Truth lead me into truth, or at least keep me from error.
May God bless each of you this week as we move to the foot of the cross and then to coldness of the sealed tomb. It is a time of testing. Our faith is being assaulted. The movie version of The Da Vinci Code is nearing release and it claims that Jesus was not God, but a man married to Mary Magdalene and who fathered children whose lineage is the real grail of legend. In addition, the Gospel of Judas or more popularly the Judas Letters, are again stirring up Gnostic speculations that even the popular press has latched onto. It is indeed a time for continuous prayer, a time to learn that most worthy enterprise. May God guide us in our quest. Grace and peace.