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Bible verses about Praying without Ceasing
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Proverbs 3:6

Consider this scenario: A person spends the entire day walking from Point A to Point B with his best friend. However, he speaks to his friend only a little in the morning and mumbles a few words at night before falling to sleep, ignoring him for the rest of the day. What would be his friend's likely assessment of the state of their friendship? Even two extremely introverted friends would share interests and converse on them to some extent.

Is there a better friend than God? We have a great deal to discuss with Him every day, for every day is filled with decisions: what to eat or not to eat, what to purchase or not purchase, what to spend time doing or thinking about. We must also decide how to respond to other people and how to respond to our own emotions and attitudes.

Every significant choice should be brought to God. If we do not, we are making decisions based on human nature and declaring ourselves to be Laodiceans, self-sufficient and needing nothing, directly contrary to the teaching of Jesus Christ (John 15:5). These do not have to be on-your-knees prayers, but we should at least silently ask God to bring His light to bear on the situation and to supply our needs, whether we need wisdom, discernment, strength, courage, understanding, patience, etc.

Notice the command in Galatians 5:16, 25: "I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. . . . If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." If we are walking in the Spirit, made possible by praying always, we cannot be sinning (verse 16). They are mutually exclusive.

Praying always is a major component of walking with God and one of the two tickets to avoiding tribulation and gaining entrance to God's Kingdom. As such, Enoch's life contains a point worthy of note that may apply to those living at the end time. God says of Enoch in Genesis 5:24: "And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him." If we walk with God as Enoch did, will God, true to His patterns, likewise take us away from the trouble on the horizon? Luke 21:36 indicates the answer could be, "Yes."

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Five)


 

Matthew 6:33

What do we actually do to "seek first the Kingdom of God"? How do we in our daily actions put God first? How do we take Christ's abstract statement and turn it into concrete steps that we can employ in our lives? One answer is Luke 21:36. Seeking God—is the solution to all our problems. Luke 21:36 gives us the first step in implementing that solution—praying always. This is a foundation on which to build eternal life.

By being in conscious and constant communication, we are acknowledging God. We are bringing Him into the picture, obeying Matthew 6:33 by seeking Him first. When we do that, we create the opportunity to put some interesting dynamics into action that will facilitate overcoming.

Could we have any better companion than God? With no other could we possibly find better fellowship. God designed prayer to be an act by a free-moral agent who consciously chooses to be with Him to develop their relationship. When we pray, we acknowledge that we are in the presence of God, giving Him the opportunity to rub off on us, like iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17).

When person A rubs off on person B, it implies that B becomes a little more like A—he begins to take on the other's characteristics. The same holds true with the relationship between God and us. Who has the easier time dealing with temptation—God or us? Of course, God does (James 1:13)! It follows, then, that if the more God rubs off on us, the more we become like Him—the more successful our battle against temptation becomes. The more God rubs off on us, the more the battle becomes God's, not ours.

To have the right kind of fellowship and relationship with God, we have to be aware of the reality that we are always in His presence; He is "a God near at hand" (Jeremiah 23:23). Because God has promised never to leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), and since we are the Temple where His Spirit dwells (I Corinthians 3:16), God is constantly with us. For His children, the question is never whether He is present, but whether we acknowledge His presence. Praying always accomplishes this.

If being in the presence of a friend of fine character improves us on a human level (Proverbs 13:20), how much more true is this when we are in the presence of God Himself, the very definition of character and wisdom? That is how He can rub off on us: We are with Him, in His fellowship, in His presence, through prayer. When it comes to His children, He is never way off somewhere, if we would but acknowledge this fact.

God designed human beings to adapt to their environment. Before conversion, this world and its influences were molding us into an anti-God form. Acknowledging God's presence is the antidote that counteracts the influence under which we have lived since birth.

God's calling is an invitation to fellowship with Him, and getting to know Him is our salvation (John 17:3). If this is so, then the means—prayer—is a vital part of the foundation on which we need to build. That is the message of Luke 21:36. Praying always leads to overcoming, and both will lead to an escape from God's wrath and fellowship with Christ on into God's Kingdom.

Notice another illustration of the power of presence. What happens to us when we are around people who are pessimistic, angry, fearful, whining? Compare that to our reaction when around those who are positive and enthusiastic, facing life with gentle humor, determination, and energy. The former can quickly drain and depress us, while the latter can energize and enthuse us. In these situations, a literal transference of a spiritual attitude takes place. However, as we increase our physical distance from either of these examples, their power to influence erodes.

What happens on the human plane is no different from what happens spiritually. The spirit—good or bad—of people radiates out from them. It can affect, even change our spirit. Likewise, Satan's spirit permeates our environment, influencing us unless we choose to counteract it.

That choice is praying at every opportunity, willingly submitting ourselves to the persuasion of the most positive, righteous, and unchanging attitudes that exist in the entire universe! This is why after prayer, after spending time in the presence of God, people can feel peace, joy, or confidence. On the other hand, they can also feel humbled and chastened because God has led them to remorse and repentance. Prayer changes things—us.

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Four)


 

Matthew 17:19-21

A lack of faith is a sign of a weak prayer life. Jesus Christ advises us how to address unbelief—prayer and fasting.

On a human level, how do we build trust, faith, and loyalty? Will we have faith in someone we do not know? Can we be loyal to a stranger? We build confidence in others through repeated contact with them over time—close and frequent communication. As we get to know them, to see them in action, to see their characters, we eventually reach a point where we can have trust and faith in them and in their behavior. Is it any different with God?

Prayer provides the repeated and continual contact with God that we need to get to know Him. This sets in motion the process that will lead to faith, to God being willing to give us the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8). The prayerful person becomes the faithful person, not the other way around. Hebrews 11:6 illustrates this point: "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."

Notice the condition in this verse: God is not the rewarder of everyone, but "of those who diligently seek Him." The gift of living faith comes from diligently, actively seeking Him, consistently and with zeal. Prayer is a major tool in seeking God, along with study, fasting, and using the knowledge gained to conform to His will—practical Christian living and overcoming. Those who prove their diligence by doing these things are the ones rewarded with the faith to overcome (I John 5:4).

The Sabbath is an external sign that identifies God's people (Exodus 31:13, 17). Yet a person may be a nominal Sabbath-keeper without having a true relationship with God. Is there another sign—a less visible one—that perhaps only God sees? Yes, and Zechariah 13:9 shows it is prayer: "They will pray in my name, and I will answer them. I will say, 'You are my people,' and they will reply, 'You, LORD, are our God!'" (Contemporary English Version).

Those with a weak prayer life have weak faith (Matthew 17:19-21). Those with weak faith are sinful (Romans 14:23) and are promised death (Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 6:23). That is just how important earnest prayer is as part of a solid foundation, especially during the end time. As I Peter 4:7 instructs, "But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers."

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Two)


 

Luke 11:5-7

The sleeping friend, awakened by his persistent friend, was irritated to be bothered so late at night. He flat out refused to give him any bread for his visiting friend, lest his sleeping wife and children be disturbed. He probably reasoned it would be better for one person to fast until morning than for his whole family to be disturbed at midnight. However, the persistent friend continued knocking, threatening to wake not only the whole family, but the whole neighborhood as well! So he got out of bed and gave his friend some bread—but not out of friendship. He gave in to persistence. A friend is a fine source of aid (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12), but God the Father and Jesus Christ are our spiritual friends—our greatest friends. They give grace, mercy, and truth abundantly (Psalm 121:1-8; 86:15; Ephesians 3:20; I Timothy 1:14-16).

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Persistent Friend


 

Luke 18:1-8

The Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8) teaches the necessity of patient, persistent, and persevering prayer, much like the Parable of the Persistent Friend (Luke 11:5-13). A mention of prayer precedes both parables. Though delivered in different situations, they both show the absolute, immeasurable contrast between God and men, and provide evidence that God yields to the saints' pleading and urging. Both parables depict a person granting a request because of his selfish motives. The Persistent Friend's persevering prayer is for necessities, while the Persistent Widow's is for protection. Both parables conclude that God will not fail us as friends and acquaintances often do.

The Parable of the Persistent Widow is especially linked with the final crisis of the last days and the painful circumstances the faithful remnant will face. Prayer will be a major resource for them. Since vengeance is God's alone, they know He will judge their oppressors, but as they wait for deliverance, persevering prayer will be their refreshment and supply of patience. The parable is preceded by Jesus' exhortation on the Christian duty to pray, dedication in prayer, and resisting the temptation to discontinue prayer. It concludes by indicating that prayer is a matter of faith.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Persistent Widow


 

Luke 18:1

Concerning our habits of prayer, "always" does not mean we should pray every single minute of the day. If this were so, the faith involved in prayer would be a dead one, as we would never have time to do the works required with it (James 2:17-18, 20, 26). "Always" means that we should be faithful to our regular times of prayer. Concerning the time of prayer, "always" includes the fact that we should pray in both good and bad times. Sadly, some pray only in a crisis, and others forget to offer a prayer of thanksgiving when God has intervened to solve a problem or provide a blessing (I Thessalonians 5:17-18). Regarding the spirit of prayer, "always" means we should be continually ready to pray, praying whenever a crisis hits or a need arises. Because they reveal our priorities, good habits of prayer show dedication to God and strengthen our relationship with Him.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Persistent Widow


 

Luke 18:1-8

Luke 18:1-8 contains the Parable of the Persistent Widow. Luke prefaces Jesus' narration of the story of the widow's pestering of the unjust judge with the comment that our Lord gave this parable specifically to encourage people "to pray and not lose heart." The basic subject of this passage of Scripture deals with the question: Will a person ultimately cave in, downcast and discouraged, because of the difficulties and trials he faces throughout his Christian life, forsaking all the truth and opportunities God has given him?

Christ's parable teaches us that we are to continue to pray and not falter or become dejected if our prayers do not seem to be answered right away. We are to come to understand that if a request is not granted immediately, God may be testing us, teaching us patience, or working out a purpose we cannot see. We must understand that He works on His timetable—not ours—and that He always works out what is best for us and for our particular situation (Romans 8:28). Our job, then, is to persevere in our faith in God, always trusting Him in what we ask of Him.

In the parable, we see the widow coming before the unrighteous judge with her complaint, though Christ never informs us about its specifics. We do not need to know the details; it could be any grievance. The callous judge has no pity in him, but the widow is so persistent that the judge reasons within himself that he had better avenge her lest she wear him out with her incessant visits. The phrase "weary me" literally implies striking blows and giving the recipient a pair of black eyes! This was one persistent woman!

If a reader of this parable is not careful, he could judge God as being comparable to the unjust judge, that is, that He will not answer our requests promptly unless we bother Him with constant pleas for help. Actually, Jesus is contrasting the faithfulness of our loving God to the cynical, self-serving, unrighteous judge. The latter is not in any way a good man, but a godless one who is just trying to shield himself from being annoyed.

Jesus is trying to get us to realize God's never-ending love and faithfulness to His children. We are to see that all that God is, the judge is not. God is always willing to hear us and to answer our prayers if according to His will. He always hears the cries of His own elect or chosen ones. Indeed, God will avenge or vindicate His people.

The point is that, if the unjust judge—who could not have cared less for the widow—at length responded to her cry merely to rid himself of her aggravating requests, then shall not God—who loves His chosen people and gave His Son for us—answer our prayers when we are under trial or in need?

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Will Christ Find Faith?


 

Luke 21:34-36

According to Strong's Concordance, agrupneo, the Greek word translated as watch in verse 36 means "to be sleepless, i.e. keep awake." Frequently, when the Bible mentions being asleep or tells us to wake up, it refers to our spiritual state (Matthew 25:5; Romans 13:11; I Thessalonians 5:6-8). Instead of "watch," some Bible versions use words such as, "don't go to sleep at the switch" (The Message), "be always on the watch" (NIV), "be ready all the time" (New Century Version), "keep awake" (Amplified Bible), "keep on the alert" (NASB), "stay awake" (ESV), "keep a constant watch" (Living Bible), and "beware of slumbering" (The New Testament in Modern Speech). This is a call to the spiritual, not the physical.

Just over two decades ago, an elderly man named Herbert Armstrong cried out, "Wake up!" and he was not talking about any other waking up than a spiritual one. Because we did not heed his warning then, the church has experienced twenty years of apostasy and scattering. If we do not wake up eventually, God has a three-and-a-half-year plan guaranteed to get our attention.

In our former association, we obeyed the instructions in Luke 21:7-33 to watch world events, but we did not closely follow Christ's commands in Luke 21:34-36 to guard our spiritual condition, hence the scattering. Interestingly, the condition of the church at that time mirrors how Luke 21:36 was generally applied—physical rather than spiritual.

It is always a good practice to allow the Bible to interpret itself rather than adding extra-biblical interpretations (II Peter 1:20). Because the Bible uses sleep and waking from sleep as spiritual metaphors, why would we want to add another meaning to the "watch" of Luke 21:36? That would be walking on shaky ground (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32), and we want to avoid repeating past error.

To emphasize that "watch" in Luke 21:36 is all about the spiritual and not about the physical, notice how agrupneo is used in its only other appearances in the New Testament:

Mark 13:33: "Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is." (This verse parallels Luke 21:36.)

Ephesians 6:18: ". . . praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints." (The context of this verse is putting on the whole armor of God—definitely a spiritual exercise.)

Hebrews 13:17: Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. (The ministry's first priority is the spiritual health of called-out Christians.)

These facts lead to the conclusion that "watch" in Luke 21:36 has little, or perhaps even nothing, to do with watching world events. A careful reading shows that the "watch" of Luke 21:36 is only minimally directing us to watch world events. Overemphasizing that meaning of this verse has overshadowed its real message, perhaps the most important survival instructions Jesus gives to Christians living at the end.

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part One)


 

Luke 21:36

In Luke 21:36, our Savior provides us with the two "tickets" we need—watching (careful, vigilant attention to overcoming our nature) and praying always—to be accounted worthy to escape the troubles at the close of this age and to enter the Kingdom of God. These two activities are pillars that support the foundation on which our Christian lives rest during these end times.

How important are these two pillars? Exactly what is Christ instructing us to do as we encounter the end of an age?

In Luke 21:36, when Christ says, "Watch," He is calling for us to scrutinize our lives in order to change them. We are not just to note the problems we see but to overcome them. How important is it to overcome? If God mentioning something twice establishes it (Genesis 41:32), how significant is a subject when He mentions it fifteen times? Not fifteen times throughout the whole Bible but in just one book! And not in just any book, but a book of special significance to us, one about the end time—Revelation!

In this end-time message, Christ says seven times, "I know your works" (Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15). What are works? They are simply the results of our efforts in overcoming, both the failures and successes. Jesus is saying, "I know the level of your overcoming." Then, for each church—whether era, group, or attitude—He comments on that effort. Overcoming is highlighted another seven times (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21), as Christ ends each of His critiques with a promise that begins, "To him who overcomes. . . ." As an exclamation point, Christ warns us seven times, a number signifying completeness, to heed what He says to all these churches (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).

Finally, in Revelation 21:7, Christ addresses overcoming a fifteenth time. He makes a promise to those who successfully overcome: "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son."

Revelation shows us that "Job One" for a Christian is overcoming, especially for someone living at the end time. This is the message in Luke 21:36 also: We have to overcome to be with Him in God's Kingdom. Salvation itself hinges on our cooperation with Him in overcoming (Matthew 25:30).

The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) demonstrates the importance of overcoming. The difference between the wise and foolish virgins is their supplies of oil. While water represents the power of God's Holy Spirit to cleanse, oil represents its power to work, to do good. Thus, the difference between the virgins is their good works ("I know your works"), how much they overcame their selfish human natures by acting in love toward God and man.

Both groups had oil, but the foolish virgins did not have enough for the unexpectedly long delay (Luke 21:34-35). When the cry went out, their lamps were still burning but sputtering and about to go out. They were not prepared for the long haul. They had not continued to overcome. They were not enduring to the end. Their oil—their good works, their overcoming—proved insufficient for the task. In this one point, they failed, and what a foolish failure it was!

Emphasizing the importance of Luke 21:36 and watching, Christ makes a specific promise to those living at the end who are watching, that is, successfully overcoming: "Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them" (Luke 12:37).

Conversely, considering the implications of John 17:3, Jesus gives a chilling judgment to the virgins who fail to overcome: "I do not know you" (Matthew 25:12).

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Two)


 

Luke 21:36

Coupled with watching and overcoming, the next subject that Jesus addresses in Luke 21:36 is prayer. To grasp just how important prayer is, notice the example of Daniel, one of the three most righteous men in the Bible, according to Ezekiel 14:14. Part of his story is in Daniel 6:7, 10:

All the governors of the kingdom, the administrators and satraps, the counselors and advisors, have consulted together to establish a royal statute and to make a firm decree, that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. . . . Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.

Daniel believed that prayer was so essential that he chose to risk his life to lions rather than lose contact with God for even a part of a day. We could say that he feared the Lion of Judah more than any physical lion. To him, prayer was a life-and-death issue. Is it to us? How many excuses would we have made to avoid those lions? What excuses do we make today to justify a lack of prayer?

Is anything more serious than a life-and-death issue? Because of the Bible's obviously high regard for Daniel, it is reasonable to assume that his attitude about prayer played a significant part in deserving the label of "righteous." Prayer, for us, becomes a spiritual life-and-death question, not just a physical one as Daniel faced.

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Two)


 

Luke 21:36

While prayer is important, notice that in Luke 21:36, Jesus does not use just the word "pray" but the phrase "pray always." Why is this significant?

As we begin to answer this question, it is good to know that the word "always" is a translation of three Greek words. A literal translation of those three words, en pantí kairoó, would be "in all times," and many Bible translations have chosen to use similar wording, such as "at all times." Other versions may use "all the time," while some use words like "constant" and "constantly." Weymouth's New Testament goes so far as to read, "every moment."

Christ is speaking, not just about prayer, but also about the frequency of our prayers. How often are we in contact with God throughout our day? Do we give Him some time in the morning or evening, but the rest of the day He is in none, or very few, of our thoughts? Doing so places us in very dangerous company (Psalm 10:4).

Laodiceans have lukewarm relationships with God, thus Christ has to say to them in Revelation 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." He calls for them to rekindle the relationship. Making the first move, He suggests what friends who have a close relationship do—they share a meal. What happens at a meal with friends? Conversation, which is what prayer is. Humans, whether with people or with God, build their relationships the same way: They talk to each other—a lot.

We can see why Christ tells those living at the end, when Laodiceanism reigns, that we have to overcome and pray always. Generally, the relationship between God and the Christian is weak and must be rebuilt, requiring considerable conversation, prayer, at all times of the day.

If we observed a marriage in which the husband and wife only mumbled to each other a little in the morning and/or a little at night, we would conclude that that relationship was in trouble. Our God who sees all knows the same thing when He experiences it.

How does a Christian "pray always"? In one of Herbert W. Armstrong's radio broadcasts on the book of Hebrews, he says, paraphrased, "You need to be in contact with God every hour!" I Thessalonians 5:17 instructs, "Pray without ceasing." Hebrews 13:15 urges us to offer prayer to God "continually." God's purpose for us requires a great deal of contact with Him.

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Two)


 

Luke 21:36

The "praying always" that Jesus commands in Luke 21:36 affects every part of our Christian lives. It is the tool that God gives us to be in constant contact with Him so that we can truly bring every thought into captivity, under the control of God (II Corinthians 10:5). We are encouraged to make bold use of this tool for our every need (Hebrews 4:16). We need to explore some of the important implications that striving to pray always—praying at all times—has on this life to which God has called us.

In Luke 21:36, Christ also commands us to "watch." The underlying Greek word stresses the need to be alert or on guard. This fits with a major requirement of Christian life, that we examine ourselves. We are to be alert to those things about ourselves that will disqualify us from entering God's Kingdom so that we can change them.

Self-examination is such an important spiritual activity that God includes it as a major part of one of His seven festivals, the Feast of Unleavened Bread. II Corinthians 13:5 exhorts, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified." Our ongoing efforts to submit to God's laws and standards are evidence that Christ and His faith are in us (James 2:18).

God always gives us choices (Deuteronomy 30:19). Consider the example of Jonah. He could have done exactly what God asked of him, but instead, he rebelled, having to suffer an intense trial to bring him to obedience to God's will. Notice, however, that God's purpose never changed. The only variable was how much pain and suffering Jonah chose to experience before he submitted to God's purpose. Initially, he chose rebellion and trials over submission to God.

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Five)


 

1 Corinthians 11:31-32

Verse 31 teaches that God allows us the opportunity to exercise self-discipline and avoid His judgment by watching—searchingly examining ourselves, detecting our shortcomings, and recognizing our own condition. Yet, if we fail to exercise discipline, He will not. As in the example of Jonah, He is faithful and will complete His purpose (Philippians 1:6). If we fall short, He will discipline and chasten us because He does not want to see us destroyed. God's purpose—our salvation—does not change. Again, the only variable is how much we choose to suffer before He accomplishes His purpose. We choose whether we will be humble or be humbled.

In many cases, not necessarily all, we choose our trials. It is the same in any family. If one son is dutiful and obedient, and the other is rebellious, pushing the envelope at every opportunity, it would come as no surprise which son suffers the greater trials (or receives the most discipline) in both number and severity. Each child has a choice. We also have a choice—to exercise the discipline now, or to receive it from God at some time in the future.

So, how do we searchingly examine ourselves, detect our shortcomings, and recognize our own condition? How do we find the path we should be taking? God promises us in Proverbs 3:6, "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." The Message, a paraphrase, renders this verse as, "Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track."

When we acknowledge His presence—which striving to pray always does—He shines His light on the decision or thought. Consciously including God in the process makes the right choice more obvious. It also makes the choice a conscious one of obeying or disobeying God, rather than relegating it to habit or impulse.

Too often, we are not exercising self-control because we are hiding from God's presence, just as Adam and Eve did (Genesis 3:8). We may hear that "still small voice" (I Kings 19:12), but we turn off our minds and just go with the flow, unresistingly following the dictates of our human nature, which has been under Satan's influence since our births.

This tendency makes striving to pray always, being in constant contact with God, the best way to accomplish effective self-examination. By communicating with God before every decision, even before every thought (II Corinthians 10:5), we invite God into the situation, putting the spotlight of truth on our thinking and motivations—human nature's worst nightmare.

With God's presence through His Holy Spirit, we are able to recognize our shame and our helplessness before God, helping to create a stronger awareness of sin that we cannot easily evade by rationalizing it. When face to face with the holy God, we cannot easily say that our sin is only a little thing. Nor can we use others as examples, saying, "They are doing it, so what is the big deal?" With God there, right in front of us, all our excuses fail.

Once we bring God into the picture, the right way is more obvious, removing the many excuses our human nature concocts to allow disobedience. Then, the stark choice of obedience or blatant rejection of God faces us. When this occurs, it is a good time to pray for the will and power to do the right thing (Philippians 2:13).

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Five)


 

Hebrews 1:3

"The express image" is from a single Greek word, from which comes our word "character." The word appears only here in the New Testament.

William Barclay explains that it literally describes "the impress that a seal leaves on wax," so he renders that part of Hebrews 1:3 as, "He [Christ] is the exact impression of his [Father's] being, just as the mark is the exact impression of the seal." Physically, a seal can make an impression only by making contact, which is exactly what must happen to us spiritually. For God to make us in His "express image"—to stamp His character on us, to give us the gift of His qualities—requires contact, that we be in His presence. Praying always does just that.

This verse also suggests that godly character is not really the result of battling temptation, a battle we are powerless to win on our own. Rather, character is created by our continual, conscious choice to be in contact with Him, to submit everything we are to Him, to acknowledge that He is the only source of strength, and then to trust—to have faith in (I John 5:4)—His love and willingness to do battle for us, to give us the gift of His character.

Praying always is that first step in overcoming—submitting. Then He can take over to do what we are not able to do on our own. After our decision to submit, He may still require certain actions from us, to take those few steps in faith—our walk with God—but then we have Him on our side, giving us guidance and strength.

Even in the world, we can see the power of character. While character can make an ordinary man extraordinary, a lack of character can make an extraordinary man quite ordinary. Character has power because it connects us with divine wisdom. Without character, we are limited to human intelligence, and most of history is a record of its woeful inadequacy. Character links us to a godly intelligence that can see the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). A person who exercises character exercises faith. He may not foresee the good it will bring, but he trusts that the divine intelligence behind his faith knows more.

If we are not continually praying, we will be using human intelligence with the same ratio of success that history has shown it to have. Praying always, striving always to be aware of His presence, allows His Spirit to rub off on us. God has chosen praying always as a primary method to allow us to get to know Him, to receive His character as a gift, to overcome, and to receive eternal life and salvation.

If God has given us this powerful tool, why do we not use it more? Why do we not seek God for every decision, every thought?

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Four)


 

Hebrews 11:5

Nearly fifty times in the New Testament, walking is used as a metaphor to describe how we live our daily lives. These numerous references signify just how important this concept is to God. For instance, Paul exhorts us to make our walk a worthy one (Colossians 1:10), one accomplished by faith and not sight (II Corinthians 5:7).

Enoch walked with God for 300 years (Genesis 5:22, 24). For three centuries, Enoch included God in every aspect of his life. In other words, wherever Enoch was, God was. In life, they were inseparable partners. We can please God as Enoch did by following his example.

How do we include God in every aspect of our lives as Enoch did in such an exemplary way? How do we ensure that God is wherever we are? Striving to pray always accomplishes both. It is a major element in walking with God.

How do we compare to Enoch's example? Can God say of us what He says about Enoch, that He is a partner in every aspect of our lives? Rather than running from God as a Laodicean would, Enoch wanted God to be present and involved in his life. He willingly and without fear subjected himself to God's minute evaluation and examination because of their intimate relationship developed through time and contact.

Enoch's walk with God is an example of a life lived with true dedication, and it can be the same for us. Praying always clearly demonstrates the true intent of the heart and our true dedication to God. The first Great Commandment is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:36-38). Because it is first, we will probably be evaluated on it most thoroughly. Praying always demonstrates our desire to comply with it.

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Five)


 

Hebrews 12:14

The apostle Paul charges us to "pursue peace . . . and holiness." Pursuing anything requires the expending of energy; it is often very hard work. Pursuing holiness especially goes strongly against the grain of the carnal, anti-God nature residing within us, leftover from following the course of this world.

Further, Paul adds that we must pursue holiness because "without [it] no one will see the Lord." It is true that, while we are justified, we are also sanctified. Being set apart is an aspect of holiness. However, the responsibility of pursuing remains because God wants our holiness to be, not a static state, but a dynamic, living, practical, and working part of our character. This character is built through experience after we have been given access to Him. We must seek and build it through cooperative association with and because of Him and our Lord and Savior.

A number of motivations exist for doing so. The first - a no-brainer - is because we love Him. Jesus says in John 14:15, "If you love Me, keep My commandments." Another motivation springs from friendship. Jesus explains in John 15:14, "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you."

Do we want to please God? Jesus remarks in John 8:29, "I always do those things that please Him." Do we want to be in God's Kingdom enough to walk His way of life entirely, regardless of what God may demand of us? Joshua and Caleb did on the journey to the Promised Land. Jesus declares in John 17:4, "I have finished the work which You have given Me to do." He paid a huge price, and He made it.

We are told to pray without ceasing and to give thanks in every circumstance because both of these are part of God's will (I Thessalonians 5:17-18). We are also to study "to present [ourselves] approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed" (II Timothy 2:15). Each of these is a labor that falls upon anyone who appreciates God for what He has done and for what He so generously and freely provides.

Do we want to witness for God, bringing Him glory by our labors of love? Is this not what all the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 accomplished? According to Hebrews 12:1, they constitute a great cloud of witnesses. Abel's work of faith still speaks (Hebrews 11:4); Noah's witness condemned the world (verse 7), and Abraham's faith drove him to seek "the city . . . whose builder and maker is God" (verses 8-10). Hebrews 11:39 declares that all of those named or implied in the chapter obtained a good testimony through faith.

They worked in various ways, and they will be in the Kingdom. Undoubtedly, God included in His Book the witness of the shining examples of their labors so that their lives might prod us to do likewise in our own.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Six)


 

Revelation 3:20

Do we really want fellowship with God? Our frequent contact with God, or lack of it, is an easy, concrete measurement for both God and ourselves to know the true answer.

A Laodicean's central characteristic is an aversion to God's presence. He does not gladly throw open the doors to let Christ in. Instead, he wants his privacy to pursue his own interests, unimpeded by the constraints God's presence would impose.

Striving to pray always throws open the door of our minds to God, and just as Luke 21:36 indicates, by vigilant watching we can spot our Laodicean tendencies, overcome them, and avoid tribulation. Commentator Albert Barnes makes some interesting points on Revelation 3:20:

The act of knocking implies two things:

(a) that we desire admittance; and

(b) that we recognise the right of him who dwells in the house to open the door to us or not, as he shall please. We would not obtrude upon him; we would not force his door; and if, after we are sure that we are heard, we are not admitted, we turn quietly away. Both of these things are implied here by the language used by the Saviour when he approaches man as represented under the image of knocking at the door: that he desires to be admitted to our friendship; and that he recognises our freedom in the matter. He does not obtrude himself upon us, nor does he employ force to find admission to the heart. If admitted, he comes and dwells with us; if rejected, he turns quietly away—perhaps to return and knock again, perhaps never to come back.

Striving to pray always is our conscious choice to let God in. Psalm 4:4 (Contemporary English Version, CEV) emphasizes the seriousness of examining ourselves: "But each of you had better tremble and turn from your sins. Silently search your heart as you lie in bed."

Every night, at the end of another busy day, provides us—and God—an opportunity to evaluate the true intent of our hearts. We can ask ourselves: How much and how often did we acknowledge God throughout our day? How much did we talk to Him and fellowship with Him today? Where did we miss opportunities to do it? Why?

Perhaps the biggest question to ask is this: When did we hear the "still small voice" today and hide from God's presence? Our daily answers to these self-examination questions and our practical responses could in a large measure determine where we spend both the Tribulation and eternity (Luke 21:36).

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Five)


 

 




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