I Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Read Part 1 here.
How did the thankfulness journal go? You realized how much you have to be thankful for, didn’t you? At least I hope you did anyway. So, on to today’s post.
Part 2: Pray without ceasing.
Ceasing means bring or come to an end. Pray without ceasing. Don’t ever stop. I don’t think you can live thankful without praying.
That’s what I’ve been doing ever since I realized just how ungrateful the York Family is. Remember, I have been begging God to show us how to do this. Not just talk about it, but do it. I want us to live making a difference in eternity.
And I was at a loss really, until I stumbled upon this blog post and this blog post. I have been following April @ The Common Mercies Blog for several months now. But for some reason, I had not read this series until the other day. And it was exactly what I’d been praying about. An object lesson, if you will. If you don’t have time to read and really think about what she says, save it for later. But promise me you’ll go back and really listen with your heart.
The short version is her family, in the span of a couple of years, moved into a smaller house, took their kids’ toys away, ate the same 3 meals for a year and purged their closets to the bare necessities. All to teach gratitude. So what are you going to do, Faith? Sell your house and move into something a little less, “nice”, give away most of the clothes in your closet, take your kids’ toys away, and only fix the same three meals everyday for a year? No. Kind of. I’m not sure yet. For the most part no. I don’t feel called to sell my house, but most of the clothes in my closet I don’t wear anyway. But is that really a sacrifice if I don’t wear most of them. Would I give up the pieces of clothing I have that I like and wear every day? I feel like yes, my children would do well to start appreciating their toys if they were all taken away. And perhaps it’s a little extreme to eat the same thing every day for a year (or maybe not, I’m still on the fence about it all). But for a week? Yes that’s doable and maybe after a week when they are allowed a choice of what they want to eat, they might be a little bit more…..thankful. Maybe I would be too. Why would any sane person do this? It’s extreme, yes and to others, just plain stupid. But this is why:
“I realize that this kind of thinking is ‘over-the-top’ and ‘abnormal’ and ‘excessive’ to almost everyone that I know. I’ve been called all those things.
I don’t care about that anymore.
I just want to be like Jesus. It’s absolutely the only way to affect eternity in any kind of way.” – April Goetsch
‘The only way to affect eternity in any kind of way.’ Ok, I imagine this is the place I’ve lost any readers that might have made it this far. “Who cares about eternity?” you may be thinking? “That’s so far away. I have plenty of time. I have absolutely no desire to affect eternity.”
But I do. And really, will they be ok if they have to eat the same thing over and over and they don’t have any toys to play with? See, deep down, we are all a little ungrateful. I imagine eating oatmeal, juice for lunch, and rice and beans for supper every night for 7 nights. I really don’t want to do it. I mean, I like food and I really, REALLY don’t want to do it. I don’t think I can stress that strongly enough. But we’ve taken for granted that we can reach in our pantry and freezers and eat whatever we want to and if we don’t have it, the grocery store is only a few minutes away. Myself included. I think about taking all their toys away and I think, what if mama took her toys away? No phone, no computer, no piano, no music. That’s extreme. I know. But how much more thankful would I be to sit down at my piano, even if I’m dizzy and I’m not comfortable, and just be able to play? How many people don’t even know what music really is? I want a new coffee table because mine is chipped and wobbly. But the old one still does it’s job. I want new bed linens and a different color of paint on my walls because I’m not happy with what I have now. What made me that way?
If I make sure my children never have to suffer want, I have crippled them for the Kingdom of God. If the idea of eating the same thing over and over again and having less STUFF upsets me, then maybe my heart is buried too deep in earthly things and not enough in eternal ones.
I’ve cried bitter tears over what I “think” my children have missed out on in the past several years. Things I think I should be able to do with them, things I think every child should be able to do. They should have fun, they should have things, right? But what if God started preparing my family to be truly thankful long before it was ever a thought in my mind? It will not hurt them to go without. It will not. What WILL hurt them is if I give them everything they could ever want. You know what this does? It not only cripples them for eternity, but it also dismisses a very important part of the Christian life. They don’t learn how to pray and watch God meet a need. I’ve wanted God to answer my prayer for healing just for them. Because they’ve prayed so hard for it and they want it so badly. But will they ever know the heartache of a ‘no’ to prayer if He does? ‘No’ is real. And they need to learn that even though God says no, He still loves them. He still has a purpose. He has a plan. Even in the no’s. How do we learn faith and trust if every prayer is always answered the way we want it to be? I’m crying as I type this. YES that’s hard to write, and harder to live. But you know what prayer also does sometimes? It shows us that when we have given every effort and failed, God’s miraculous power is able to move. We have a need? Don’t try to meet it, let God do it. Pray and wait and watch how He works. Pray without ceasing.
My children will not be able to bring their toys or their money or their nice bedding or their comfy home with them to eternity. And neither will I. But I CAN bring them. They can bring others. But I, and they, must start living intentionally. For eternity’s sake.
And that starts by living thankful. The only way we can affect eternity is to be as close as possible to the One who holds eternity in His hands. And the only way we can be as close as possible, is to pray. Without ceasing. Because this all seems so daunting! Does it not? There’s so much responsibility, so much of a burden to make sure we do something that will last forever. Something we can bring and lay at the feet of Jesus. The one Who gave us life. The One Who died for us. The One Who gave us everything we have so that we can have joy in the first place. How will we ever truly live thankful enough to affect eternity? I don’t know. But He does. And if we never ask Him, if we never go to Him to give us the strength to do it, we are going to fail. And I can’t accept failure when so much is at stake.
So, your homework assignment for Part 2 is:
- Biblical application: Pray without ceasing. ~Always~
- Practical application: Go a week eating the same meals every day. Give away something that means a lot to you. Don’t fix something that you can really do without. And while you’re doing it, pray that God would bury your heart in eternity.
As always, I’m in this with you. Join me next week for Part 3.
(PS. I realize I have talked a lot about my children. But this can be applied to anyone in any situation. This is just where I am in life. Wherever you are, God can still work thankfulness in your heart as well.)