A Simple Rule | Rejoice Always
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 Rejoice in the L...
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16–18
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
We all want something solid to hold on to.
That’s especially the case when the ground seems to be shifting beneath us. A ‘rule of life’ can be viewed as supportive scaffolding. It provides creative boundaries and the encouragement to follow spiritual disciplines whilst leaving room for growth and flexibility.
Paul offers his threefold structure of rejoicing, prayer, and thanksgiving to aid young Christians in Philippi as well as Thessalonica, and through his letters to us also.
The central exhortation to pray continually is key to the other two. ‘Prayer isn’t just one thing among many. It’s like a secret stream, flowing along unseen, refreshing everything else we do and making things happen in ways we can’t understand, and often don’t even expect, but which prove themselves real time and again’, writes theologian Tom Wright in New Testament Prayer for Everyone.
Many of us struggle with prayer. It requires an act of faith. Faith is trusting that God is who he says he is: good, loving, wise, powerful, faithful, consistent, and totally for us. Distorted images of God can make us reluctant to pray, as prayer is not a technique but communication with our loving Father. When Paul writes ‘pray continually’, he is not viewing prayer as just something we ‘do’, but as a way of living our lives in communion with God.
One way that Christians have sought to follow the injunction to pray without ceasing is the ‘breath prayer’. The most famous of these is the Jesus Prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ The idea is to repeat this slowly, several times, matching it to your breathing. Over time you will find yourself praying it unconsciously. Another way to pray continually is to develop a joyful awareness of God’s loving presence in all the activities of the day and acknowledge him with whispered prayers of praise, intercession, and adoration.
Continuous prayer may seem impossible. It will certainly not happen overnight, or without practice. As Richard Foster writes in Prayer: ‘The question is not whether we fail again and again – this is a given; the question is whether, over a period of time, we are developing a practised habit of divine fellowship.’
Bev Shepherd is the Prayer Journeys Project Leader, an LICC associate speaker, and an executive coach
What short breath prayer could you repeat at intervals during your day? For example: ‘The LORD is my shepherd… I lack nothing.’ Join the conversation in the comments below.