Calvary Road Baptist Church


First Thessalonians 5.17


Please turn in your Bible to First Thessalonians 5.16-22 and stand for the reading of God’s Word:


16     Rejoice evermore.

17     Pray without ceasing.

18     In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

19     Quench not the Spirit.

20     Despise not prophesyings.

21     Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

22     Abstain from all appearance of evil.


In this portion of Paul’s letter to the new Christians in Thessalonica, we see how we are supposed to behave until the Lord Jesus Christ comes again. The Bible teaches that the return of the Lord Jesus Christ for His Own is imminent. That does not mean it will necessarily happen soon, but it does mean it can happen soon. It can occur at any time. The apostle Paul lets us know, in First Thessalonians chapter 5, that there are three basic kinds of responses that ought to be found in the life of a Christian, based upon the soon return of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are ways that Christians ought to act as a result of being motivated to be ready, and to be clean, and to be doing the right kinds of things when the Lord Jesus Christ comes back.

In view of the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming back soon, in view of the fact that He has left us with a job to do, to preach the gospel to every creature, there are some things we must busy ourselves doing while it is yet light and we can work, for the night comes when no man can work.

The first thing that Paul told us to do is to have the right kind of relationship with spiritual leaders. We are to be responsive toward the spiritual leaders God has given to us, to know them that labor among you and are over you in the Lord, and to highly esteem them in love for their work’s sake. That is number one, a right relationship toward human spiritual leadership. We find that in verses 12 and 13.

Secondly, Paul told us that we are to have a right relationship toward other believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is necessary that we do this so that we will be able to minister to their needs. In this way, we will serve God properly, and by our ministering to other Christian’s needs they will be better prepared to serve God. We find that in verse 13, as well. There are some professing Christians who just fuss and fume, and they are like snotty-nosed little kids. All they want is their own way. The Word of God says we are supposed deal with them, encourage them in love, and sometimes get a little tough with them. “You need to grow up. You need to straighten up. You need to fly right. You need to serve God.” That direction comes from verse 14. There are some people who have some real weaknesses in their lives. I mean, they just have a hard time with the basic functions of Christianity. We are supposed to reach out and touch them. We are supposed to minister to their needs. We are supposed to act somewhat like a plaster cast does on a broken leg. Not to bear the weight forever. But to give him time to mend and heal and then remove yourself from that situation so that he can learn to stand. You see, we are not supposed to cause Christians to be dependent upon us. But we are supposed to minister to believers in such a way that they will learn to stand on their own two feet, so far as human beings are concerned, and will spiritually learn to depend upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, we do have responsibilities towards other brothers and sisters in Christ. We are our brother’s and sister’s keepers. Amen?

There is a third area that the apostle Paul deals with us about, in view of the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is going to come back, and He can come back at any time. The imminent return of our Lord for His Own lays a special responsibility upon the Christian to, in addition to being responsive toward spiritual leadership, in addition to being responsive towards our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is of critical importance that we be responsive to the Holy Spirit of God in our lives. One of the things we need to understand is that just because someone is aware of the person and the ministry of the Holy Spirit of God does not by any stretch of the imagination mean that he knows anything about the person and the ministry of the Holy Spirit of God. There are many people in the world today who spend a great deal of time dwelling upon the person and the work of the Holy Spirit of God, while at the same time denying what the Bible says about the person and the work of the Holy Spirit of God.

We need to understand something, brethren. The Holy Spirit is the One Who wrote this book. No matter how much you talk about Jesus, and no matter how much you talk about the Holy Ghost, if you do not obey the book that the Spirit of God wrote you are not being responsive to Him. There are seven areas in the seven verses we just read in which the responsiveness to the Holy Spirit of God is shown. There is the Spirit’s fruit (“Rejoice ever more”), the Spirit’s intercession (“Pray without ceasing”), the Spirit’s filling (verse 18), the Spirit’s leading (“Quench not the Spirit”), the Spirit’s instruction (“Despise not prophesyings”), the Spirit’s discernment (“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”), and finally the Spirit’s sensitivity in our lives (“Abstain from all appearance of evil.”).

I want to focus your attention on verse 17, the Holy Spirit’s intercession, “Pray without ceasing.” Perhaps you have been told that John 11.35 is the shortest verse in the Bible, which reads, “Jesus wept.” However, the Greek text translated “Jesus wept” is actually three words. The shortest verses in the Bible are actually First Thessalonians 5.16 and 17, with each being comprised of only two Greek words.

“Pray without ceasing.” Two thoughts associated with this command to pray without ceasing.


First, The Reason For Praying Without Ceasing


Why should you pray without ceasing? Well, first of all, because you are told to. In addition to that, there are some tremendous reasons why a Christian should be praying. This does not mean that you walk through life bumping into things because you are praying all the time with your eyes closed. This is not talking about you starting to pray from the time you are saved and you continually pray your whole life, and then just before you die you say “Amen.” That is not what this command is about. What this is about is a habitual action of life of praying to God. That means you pray. Then you pray. Then you pray. Then you pray. Then you pray. Then you pray. Then you pray. Then you pray again. And you pray again. And then you pray again. And then you pray again. Then you pray again. Then you pray again. It does not mean that when you wake up in the morning you begin, “Our Father which art in heaven . . . ,” then when you go to bed, “. . . Amen.” That is not what this is talking about. It is not a long 18-hour prayer Paul is talking about.

It is like this: You are driving and the traffic is beginning to thicken up a little. Moreover, you know that whenever traffic gets thick you start getting carnal. “These stupid idiots. Lord, Lord, help me get through this without being carnal.” Then you run out of gas. “Lord, my wife told me I should put gas in the car. Lord, help me not to respond in an unspiritual way.” It is the constant tendency to resort to prayer.

You are at work and you say, “Oh, here he comes again. He is late to work again. Oh Lord, why did you give me this guy as a worker? He is always late. Lord, help me to be the kind of boss that I need to be to get the most out of him for his sake, just so that it will be good for him. Father, help me do that today, give me wisdom today.” Moreover, on through the day you realize your constant dependency upon your heavenly Father. And you pray that way. That is what the praying without ceasing really is.

Let me tell you why you ought to do it. First of all, because praying is talking to God. And who better to talk to than Him? You know, you could talk to various other people, but you know that a lot of times when you talk to them you are just wasting your time. You are not accomplishing anything. The Lord Jesus Christ, in Matthew 26.39, let us know in His garden of Gethsemane prayer that what prayer really is, is talking to God. He was talking to His Father, there. Pouring His heart out to Him. He said, “Father I would like for you to take this cup from me. But if not, your will is the important thing here, Father.” He was talking a prayer to His Father. Some people plead, “I just don’t know how to pray.” Do you know how to talk? Then you know how to pray. You are just talking to God. That is what prayer is. And you, by faith, understand that because your sins have been forgiven you, and you are not regarding iniquity in your heart, God is listening to you and He will respond.

Secondly, praying is unburdening on God. I love this passage. Almost every single time I counsel people, I take them here. Philippians 4.6-7: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” In Philippians 4.6 the apostle Paul says, “Be careful for nothing.” He is saying, “Don’t worry about things.” This does not mean that you shouldn’t be concerned about the important issues of life. Obviously, you should be concerned, but not to the point of sinful worry. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

So, what is praying? Praying is unburdening yourself on God. It is taking something that has fallen into your lap and, by prayer, reverently placing it into the lap of your Father in heaven. You wake up in the morning as a little child and you are hungry. Do you have a problem, or does mommy have a problem? You do not have a problem. Mommy has the problem, she has to feed you. That is her problem. You are affected by her problem. And until she solves her problem you will be uncomfortable and whiny. But it is her problem. Do you know that the same thing is true of the child of God? I do not have a problem. My Father has a problem. His problems affect me. But they are His problems. And as soon as I ask Him to solve His problem He sets into motion things that will produce the solution to His problem. Really, the way a child of God has peace in his heart is by realizing that my problem is not my problem. It is His problem, because it is His reputation that is at stake, not mine. It is your child’s health and welfare that is at stake, Father. And I am your child, so it is your problem. When Christians begin to realize this truth then we will have many more Christians with fewer nervous type problems.

Thirdly, prayer is simply asking God. James 1.5: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” You just simply ask Him, “Father, I would like this, and I would like that, and I would like the other thing.” That is the reason you ought to pray without ceasing. Because praying is talking to God, praying is unburdening yourself on God, which is what He wants, and, #3, prayer is simply asking. I do not know about you, but there are many things that I do not have that I want. I am not talking just about material things. There are some areas of my spiritual life that I need help. And I want that help badly. I am never going to get that help unless I ask for it. “You have not because you ask not,” is also what James writes. So, we need to be in prayer.


As Well, What Is The Relationship Of Prayer To The Holy Spirit Of God?


Turn to Romans 8.26-27:


26    Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

27    And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”


So, the subject here in these two verses is prayer.

I do not understand how in the world people can get from these two verses that this is referring to the spiritual gift of tongues, because it says here that what the Holy Spirit does is intercede with groanings, which cannot be uttered. But tongues are uttered, are they not? Is it not true that when a person speaks in tongues he is uttering things? However, this passage is referring to things that cannot be uttered. This is not, therefore, referring to the gift of tongues.

This is talking about the fact that the Holy Spirit of God does always help us when we pray. The Holy Spirit of God actually, to God the Father, verbalizes our prayers for us. We do not know how we ought to pray all the time, but the Holy Spirit does know how we are to pray all the time. And He intercedes for us according to the will of God, with groanings which cannot be uttered. We are not talking about a spiritual gift here. We are talking about that time when you are on your face before God and you have a spiritual need. Your soul is crying out to God for something and you do not know what it is, or you do not know precisely how to ask for it. “Father, I . . . Father.”

Have you ever prayed like that? You have been on your face before God, and there was a need, there was a problem, and you did not know how to ask God for it. This lets us know that the Holy Spirit does know how to ask for it. And because the Holy Spirit of God dwells within you, when you are praying that way, the prayer is getting there okay. It is making it to heaven. God the Father does hear and He does understand, because the Holy Spirit of God has communicated the message for you.

Ever know someone who was a little bit too little to talk and they (talking like a baby). And you, “Huh?” Then the kid’s older brother or sister says, “He’s telling you he’s hungry.” “Oh, okay.” Boy, can little kids do a good job of interpreting, because it was not too long ago that they talked that way.” You know something? That is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. That is what the Holy Spirit of God is doing.


We need to pray without ceasing. We need to be in that kind of attitude of prayer even when we do not know what to say. The Holy Spirit knows what to say for us.

The underlying basis for this directive from Paul can be found in the Old Testament book of Zechariah, where God says these words to Zerubbabel: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.” The work that God started when He began to deliver His people from Babylonian captivity and they undertook the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem and the city walls were not accomplished by external deeds of force.

Astonishingly, this all-powerful God, Who created the heavens and the earth and all there herein is, chooses to accomplish His work by means of secret operations and internal influences on the minds of men. That is, He chooses to work by means of His Holy Spirit’s convicting and persuading work in people’s lives.

The reason we need to pray without ceasing is because what was true in Zerubbabel’s day, and what was true in Paul’s day, is true in our day. Our success depends not upon wiles or cleverness, intelligence or soundness of logic.

My friends, we are dependent upon the workings of the Holy Spirit on men’s minds and in their hearts, including our own minds and hearts. Thus, we pray to the Father, asking Him to accomplish for us what we cannot do ourselves, depending upon the Spirit of God to not only intercede and deliver the prayer, but also to serve as the Father’s executor to bring about the answer to our prayers.

“Pray without ceasing.” It is the Christian’s way of life.

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