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Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing (continuously)

Frontline Devotion for December 15, 2017 (Season of 'Advent')

1Thessalonians 5:16-17

By: Madeleine Bryant

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1Thessalonians 5:16-17

With the world - and often our private lives - in turmoil, I understand the need to pray continuously! But "rejoice" always? Well, OK, it's Advent, and we should "rejoice this happy season!"

Indeed, the light dawns! We're about to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior - the Light of the World. He changed the world; He changed each one of us! That is surely something about which to rejoice and for which to express our deepest gratitude.

How do we communicate this gratitude to our Lord, who has so richly blessed us? Through prayer! What form does this take? We offer prayers and sing hymns during church services. We may commit to personal prayer and meditation. This is a meaningful beginning, but doesn't quite define "pray without ceasing."

Is your daily internal conversation often a bit negative and unhelpful: "I can't do this!" "That jerk - what is he thinking!" "Why me?" How might this change, if you turned this monolog into a dialog with God? That is prayer!

God is the best listener - and always available, anywhere, anytime. Our prayers may begin with anger, with tears - that's fine. God has heard it all! Just the act of talking with Him slows our pounding hearts, eases our tension and often puts our lives (even life in general) into perspective. We rejoice!

We all know those who are gravely ill or materially poor or carrying heavy burdens who, nevertheless, seem genuinely happy and at peace - and others who appear to have it all and yet are miserable creatures. What is it that makes us content, joyful? As we feel God's presence with us and remember that "this is the day that the Lord has made" (Ps. 118), our sense of gratitude increases. And, when we are truly grateful, we rejoice!

Pray without ceasing doesn't mean we do all the talking! Prayer is a 2-way conversation with God. If we're always talking, we cannot be listening. "Be still and know that I am God" (Ps. 46). You'll be surprised at the insights and direction you receive - if you're listening. We rejoice!

In our gratitude, we are also reminded that it isn't all about us! Even if we are bedridden, we can pray for each other, for those going through difficult times, for people who seem sad or troubled, for our world which desperately needs the message of Christmas. Take the focus off yourself. Focus on others. Focus on God! Suddenly you are calmer, perhaps even smiling! We rejoice!

Begin and end your day with prayer and thanksgiving - and then fill in the rest of the day with mini-prayers. Pray through decisions you need to make, problems you are struggling with. Pray for others. Say thank you for a beautiful sunset, time with loved ones, a good book, a friendship rekindled, courage in crisis, safe travel - our blessings are bountiful. "Immanuel" means God with us. Since He is with us all the time, why not be in prayer all the time. "Take it to the Lord in prayer" really works! We rejoice!

Prayer: Lord, help us to have a grateful, rejoicing heart. Thank you for providing the powerful gift of prayer and teaching us how to use it. We know that to pray means we haven't lost hope - something we hold especially dear during this blessed Christmas season. AMEN.