Joy, Prayer And Thanksgiving

“Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” —1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 KJV

Adapted from “The Bible Treasury,” edited by William Kelly. These brief notes were from a Bible study in 1917.

These verses are so sweet and precious, especially to the young believer. The believers in Thessalonica were Paul’s joy and crown of rejoicing (2:19), and we cannot read the epistles without noticing the spirit in which they were written. In these verses we have the normal state of the Christian: perpetual, or continual, joy, prayer and thanksgiving. What do we know, for instance, of perpetual joy – a joy that never wanes? If we were marked more by these three things what a different people we would be!

In 2 Kings 18:14 we find that Hezekiah was not prayerful. By looking at that portion we also discover the means God used to change him into a man who prayed. King Hezekiah did not turn to God when the king of Assyria first came up, but God would not let Hezekiah go on in his way. The Devil tried to hinder the king of Judah’s confidence. Finally, after Rabshakeh’s insolence, Hezekiah went into the house of Jehovah (19:1). What a pity that he did not go before!

Hezekiah was learning a profitable lesson, but it needed to be deepened. Hence, he got the letter which then he spread out before the Lord, and he received 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 (Neh. 8:10), but how is this joy to be maintained? Paul had it in prison (Acts 16:25), and he told the Philippians to rejoice always (Phil 4:4). This joy is only to be found where the Lord Himself found it: through obedience. As we are obedient we shall prove it likewise. The dependent Man could say in Psalm 16:6, ”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 hard day’s work, you will find joy.

Next we have “Pray without ceasing” (1 Th. 5:17). “Open thy mouth wide,” He has said, “and I will fill it” (Ps. 81:10). The Lord does not want us to close our mouths. The answer in Malachi is: “I will … open … the windows of heaven” (Mal. 3:10). Don’t we want that? Back 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 came up praying. On the mountaintop or in the garden, He was always praying. Confidence and dependence marked Him all through. Only in Luke do we read the admonition, “Men ought always to pray” (18:1).

“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. Through it we are strengthened of God for whatever He gives us to do. But alas! Are we not ready to put our work in the first place and to give a lower place to prayer? Not so with the apostles: “We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4).

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we have “thanksgiving.” How the Lord loves to hear it! We find three sacrifices in Hebrews: one never to be repeated, two never to be left off. The Lord’s one offering can never be repeated (10:12). But in Hebrews 13 we read: “By Him let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually” (v.15) and, “To do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (v.16).

There are four records of our Lord giving thanks. With 5,000 hungry men before Him, He gave thanks, knowing what He would do. When His testimony was rejected (Mt. 11:25), 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 (Lk. 22:17,19). “In everything give thanks,” but that is not as difficult as “giving thanks always for all things” (Eph. 5:20). This is God’s will for us.