Paul wrote to his friends in Thessalonica (5:7) “Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. (The Message)
I read this and I read it again, I grit my teeth and clench my fists and desperately try to believe it! I can’t! I won’t! I don’t! And I am not alone – I have yet to meet the person who has the permanent smile on their face, constantly before God in prayer and thankful to God no matter what!!?? And after so many weeks in lockdown, with all the pain, deaths and suffering caused by the pandemic, makes it even harder to live the way Paul says God expects us to be!
This is the time it is going to get tougher. Now people are really being hit with the truth loved ones are not coming back. Now people are facing the reality of job losses and financial hardship. Now the consequences of long-term isolation are hitting us with the rise in domestic abuse and mental stress. Now is the time we have to start taking risks to get back to schools and colleges, workplace and recreation. Now is the time our churches will be reflecting on how life will be after lockdown is eased. So – it is now more than ever we need those who belong to Christ Jesus to live the life of cheerfulness, prayerfulness and thankfulness – the world needs to see there is hope for life to be lived!
If I could only get the constant prayer bit right! That would be a start! Paul doesn’t mean we should be praying all the time, in the way we understand prayers in church, or even constant non-stop offering of our praise and our concerns to God in words, continually on our knees! The Greek word he used is adialeiptos which means ‘constantly recurring’ That is great – for it means, that because we have put our trust in Jesus Christ, then we know it is he who is continually with us, a non-stop presence in our lives, constant in his love for us. We can therefore talk to him any time, listen to him whenever we need comfort and guidance, or just be silent in his company! That’s how I have come to know prayer – Jesus as my best friend!
Joseph Scriven wrote a poem from Canada to his mother in Ireland, during the time of great potato famine, and it has become a favourite hymn:
What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy-laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge— take it to the Lord in prayer;
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee, thou wilt find a solace there.
This is the time the world needs to know we have that friend, and they can have him too. Cheerful? Prayerful? Thankful? Oh, yes!
In Christ’s love,
Kevin Watson, Yorkshire Synod Moderator