Joy, Prayer and Thanksgiving

Brief notes of a reading on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

1917 207 I think we might profitably dwell on these important verses. They are so sweet and precious especially to the young believer. These Thessalonians were Paul's joy and crown of rejoicing, and we cannot read these Epistles and not notice the spirit in which they were written.

In these verses we have the normal state of the Christian perpetual joy, perpetual prayer, and perpetual thanksgiving. What do we know of perpetual joy, of a joy that never wanes? If we were marked more by these three things what a different people we should be!

If we turn to 2 Kings 18:14 we find Hezekiah not prayerful, and the means God took to make him so. He never turned to God at all when the king of Assyria first came up, but God would not let this go on. The devil tried to hinder his confidence. After Rabshakeh's insolence Hezekiah went into the house of Jehovah (2 Kings 19:1). What a pity he did not go before! Hezekiah was learning a profitable lesson, but it needed to be deepened; so he gets the letter which he spreads before the Lord, and gets God's magnificent answer. Does not this show how much better it would be for us if we were more constantly in prayer? Hezekiah had beautified the house of the Lord more than any; but after opening the house, through not praying, he had to cut off the gold.

In the order in Thessalonians, joy comes before prayer; and the question is, Where is true Christian joy to be found? The joy of the Lord is our strength, and how is this joy to be maintained? Paul had this joy in prison and he told the Philippians to rejoice always. It is only to be found where the Lord Himself found it. He found it through obedience, and as we are obedient we shall prove it likewise. The dependent Man could say in Psalm 16, "the lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places." We are no doubt living in the last moments of the church's history, and it is only conscious communion with the Lord that can keep one happy. If you meditate on the Lord, even through a heavy day's work, you will find joy.

Next we have "Pray without ceasing." "Open thy mouth wide,"He has said, "and I will fill it." The Lord does not want us to close our mouths. The answer in Malachi is, "I will open the windows of heaven." Don't we want that? In Acts 16 we find the Lord opened Lydia's heart. If you and I open our mouths wide the Lord will fill them. Then He will do what we cannot do. He will open hearts.

In Luke, the Lord is seen praying more than in any other Gospel. At His baptism He comes up praying. So on the mountain top, or in the garden, He is always praying. Confidence and dependence mark Him all through. Only in that Gospel too is it said by Him, "Men ought always to pray."

"Pray without ceasing" does not forbid the thought of definite times for prayer, nor does it detract from the proper carrying out of our service to the Lord. Prayer should indeed have the first place in all our service. Then are we strengthened of God, for whatever He gives us to do. But alas! are we not ready to put our work in the front place, and to give a subsidiary place to prayer? Not so the apostles, but "We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4).

In ver. 18 we have "thanksgiving." How the Lord loves to hear it! In Hebrews there are three sacrifices; one never to be repeated, two never to be left off. The Lord's one offering can never be repeated; then in chap. 13. "by Him let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually," and, "to do good and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."

Four times in our Lord's own life He gave thanks. With five thousand starving men before Him, He gave thanks because He knew what He would do. When His testimony was rejected (Matthew 11) He gave thanks. At the grave of Lazarus He gave thanks, before He raised him. And in the presence of His own death He gave thanks (Luke 22:17 19). "In everything give thanks," but that is not so difficult as "giving thanks always for all things." This is God's will for us.