Summary: Fire safety campaigns have done a great job of preparing children for emergencies through their slogan, 'Stop, Drop, and Roll.' The apostle Paul had a similar slogan.
“Connected: Stop, Drop, and…”
Rom. 1:8-10; 1 Thess. 5:12-28
Fire safety campaigns have done a great job of helping people be prepared for emergencies. Their campaign slogan of “Stop, Drop, and Roll” has been indelibly burned into the minds of children so in the event of an emergency doing so is likely to be automatic for them.
The Apostle Paul had a similar slogan and goal for living. He wrote the Thessalonians to encourage new converts in the midst of their trials, to instruct them in godly living, and to assure them of their secure future. At the end of his letter he gives them a number of miscellaneous, but no less important, instructions. That’s when he offered his slogan (vs. 17): “Pray continually.” Stop, Drop, and Pray. He wanted it burned into the minds of Christ’s followers so it would be automatic and natural for them to pray. But just what does it mean to ‘pray continually?’ A staff member asked me that several years ago and at the time I thought, “I really need to get a handle on that.” At long last I’m ready, with the help of the Spirit, to consider the concept; so this morning we’re examining what continual praying is all about.
Continual praying is, first of all, AN ACTION. Certainly Paul does not mean that we spend 24/7 on our knees praying. Even he didn’t do that. Rather, the word carries the idea of CONSISTENCY. The word ‘continual’ implies "constantly recurring," not continuously occurring. It refers to being regular and constant in the observance of stated times of prayer. We are to be regular in, have stated times for prayer. Prayer is to be a part of our devotions, our meals, our meetings, our family times, our rising and retiring each day; they are part of our trellis we talked about last week. Paul preached it often. Pray, TAKE HOLD OF GOD, IN ALL THE SITUATIONS, CIRCUMSTANCES, AND GATHERINGS OF LIFE. I’ve listed some verses at the end of the outline in the bulletin (Rom. 12:12; Eph. 6:18; Col. 4:2). But for now recall, for example, his words to the Philippians (4:6): “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Historically, THE DAILY – OR DIVINE – OFFICE of prayer has served to assist Christians in developing this consistency. Christians pray at set times throughout the day. As Robert Benson wrote in his book “In Constant Prayer” (a major reading during my Sabbatical), “For thousands of years, the daily office has been a primary way to hold ourselves in closer communion with the one who made us. It is a way to sanctify our days and our hours, our work and our love, our very life itself…Daily hours of prayer, in fact, were chief among the things that held Christian communities together during the early years of the Church and the years of persecution.” (1) The Daily Office not only provides a framework for individuals to be consistent in prayer, it also provides for prayer to be unceasing. For example, picture Christians praying between 11:00 am and noon, from time zone to time zone around the world. There would literally be prayer without ceasing; prayer AROUND THE CLOCK – AROUND THE WORLD.
But, yes, IT’S HARD TO BE REGULAR AND CONSISTENT IN PRAYER. Consistent prayer is sometimes like pulling weeds – we don’t like to do it, it’s not fun or exhilarating, and it gets boring; it can even be hard work. But unless we consistently pull the weeds, the garden will not be as productive and abundant. Unless we consistently pray, our lives and the lives of those whom we love will not be as productive and abundant. We also like to use the excuse that consistent praying becomes merely habitual – it loses its meaning. I ask you – what routines do you have each day? How you get up in the morning, how and when you shower, how you brush your teeth, how you get to school or work, how and when you work out…your list is long. Are those routines always exciting? Do they lose their meaning or value? As Benson puts it, “We who will get up and walk, or even run miles in the mornings…we who will haul ourselves through our neighborhoods in the dark to make sure that we have the box scores as quick as we can…will not, cannot, do not rise in the morning to greet the dawn with a song of praise on our lips, as did those who went before us. We who will stay up late to watch the televised version of the news that we heard on our drive home at six, who will TiVo enough must-see television that we have to stay up late to keep up, who will not go to sleep without reading a novel, who will burn the candle at both ends and in the middle if we can figure how to get it lit, will not end our days with praise and worship and confession and blessing.” (2)