1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Two weeks ago, I preached what may have been for some of you a controversial or puzzling message about what it means to be ‘led’ by the Spirit in which I conveyed that the Spirit’s main role is to lead people to saving faith in Christ (Justification) and to begin in us the life-long process of becoming more like Christ (Sanctification).

I also cautioned us to think it through before claiming the Holy Spirit told us or led us to do anything that is outside the realm of scripture. And I quoted among others, Billy Graham:

He (the Spirit) will never lead you contrary to the word of God. I hear people saying, “The Lord told me to do this . . . The Lord told me thus and so.” I am always a little suspicious unless what the Lord has said is in keeping with His Word. God never directs us to do anything contrary to His Word. 1

For example, if you came to me to tell me that Holy Spirit led you to forgive someone who has wronged you, or to increase your giving to the church, or to join a Bible Study, I have no problem because those things have to do with our sanctification and are clearly mandated in scripture.

However; if you tell me the Spirit of God led you to tell me that I should sell my Kia and buy a Honda forgive me for being a little skeptical as I have come to believe that God did not send the promised Holy Spirit for the purpose of telling us or leading us or guiding us into anything that is outside the realm of the scriptures.

Having said that, I hope no one took/takes me to mean that God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit cannot or will not work in our lives to bring us a sense of assurance or comfort or direction or peace as a result of praying.

In fact, in today’s pericope, Paul admonishes us to pray without ceasing: “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (I Thess. 5:16-18).

What does Paul mean by ‘Never stop praying’?

Paul does not have in mind praying 24/7. No human being, no matter how saintly, could possibly pray at all times. But I think we do have to admit that Paul must mean praying often.

In NKJ of Romans 1:9, Paul writes, “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.” Surely Paul did not make mention of the Romans every second of every day. He prayed about lots of other things besides the Romans. But apparently there was a time when he mentioned them over and over. That’s what I believe he means by “without ceasing;” repeatedly and often.

Now to be sure praying ‘repeatedly and often’ is no small task. All of us are very busy people; most of us say we are busier now than at any point in our lives. How can we possibly pray without ceasing?

We need to understand that to pray without ceasing does not require us to stop what we are doing to kneel down into a position of formal prayer. Rather, praying without ceasing is having an ongoing conversation with God. It is recognizing that God is always with us, that He is available 24/7.

Conversational prayer has the potential to transform prayer from a religious duty that we try to squeeze into our busy day, into a vibrant conversation with God who is always by our side. We can say “Good morning, Lord,” when we wake up. We can thank Him for the taste of coffee and food and praise Him for the beauty of the day. We can discuss with him the problems we are facing. And when we sin (as we will every day), we don’t need to fear God will abandon us. Just offer a quick, “Forgive me, Lord,” thank Him for it and ask Him to help you do better next time. And just before we sign off at the end of a long day don’t forget to say, “Good night, Lord.”

For Christians, prayer should be like breathing.

Some of you may recall the name of the famous saxophonist Kenneth Bruce Gorelick better known as Kenny G who burst upon the music scene in the 80’s. One of the reasons for his popularity was he taught himself a breathing technique called ‘circular breathing’ that enables him to play notes continually without having to stop for a breath. Circular breathing requires the musician to breathe air in through his nose store some of that air in the cheek while at the same time blowing some of that air into the instrument.

Kenny G used circular breathing in 1997 to earn a spot in the Guiness Book of World Records for the longest-held musical note, sustaining an E flat for 45 minutes and 47 seconds.

For anyone who wants to pray without ceasing, the principle is the same. You have to keep inhaling from God, so that we can continue exhaling prayers back to Him. The trick is to have a reserve of God’s Spirit by His Word to draw on in order to unceasingly exhale prayers of praise, thanksgiving, and requests.

Neither playing the saxophone without ceasing, nor praying without ceasing is easy; both take effort. Kenny G says it took him ten years to learn circular breathing well enough to sustain a single note. It took him another ten years before he could play continuous runs of notes without stopping for a breath.

When it comes to unceasing conversational prayer, the key is practice and habit.

If conversational prayer is like breathing in and breathing out; let’s breathe.

For those of us who need a little assurance of our faith:

Let’s ‘breathe in’ from Ephesians 2:8-9 “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

Let’s ‘breathe out’ a prayer of thanksgiving. ‘We are so grateful that you died for us—rising again on your own new morning—so that every day could be filled with the wonder of your love, the freedom of your Spirit, and the joy of knowing You. Amen.

Or if today you find that you are in need of the assurance of God’s presence:

Let’s ‘breathe in’ Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength a very present help in times of trouble.”

And ‘breathe out’ a prayer of trust. (Pray as led).

If today you find that you are in need of comfort in loss:

Let’s ‘breathe in’ Psalm 34:18 “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those who are crushed in spirit.”

And breathe out a prayer: ‘Dear Lord, please help us in this time of loss and grief. We don’t understand why You’ve allowed this heartache in our lives. But we turn to You for comfort. We seek your loving and reassuring presence. Please, dear Lord, be our strong fortress, our shelter in this storm. Give us the strength to seek You, to trust in Your unfailing love and faithfulness. Help us find a path of healing through the pain so that we will put our full hope in You.

Or if today you find that yourself in worry and in need of peace:

Let’s ‘breathe in’ Philippians 4:6-7 “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Let’s ‘breathe out’ prayers that reflect our needs (pray as led for your needs)

Or if today you find that you are in need of some direction:

Let’s ‘breathe in’ Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.”

And ‘breathe out’ a prayer, ‘Lord, here we are today with open hands and heart, ready to depend on You to help us through the day and all it will bring our way. As we face tough choices and hard situations, help us remember we are Your children and Your representatives to the world around us. Help us live today in a way that brings honor to Your holy name. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Finally, today, if you find that you are in need for a chance to start over. Anyone here ever wish you could start over? Well, you can right now.

Let’s breathe in Lamentations 3:21-22 ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies are new every morning, great is Thy faithfulness.

And breathe out ‘Good morning, Lord! Today’s a new day, a chance for a new start. Yesterday is gone, and with it, any regrets, mistakes, or failures we may have experienced. It’s a good day to be glad and give thanks, and we do, Lord. Thank you for today, a new opportunity to love, give, and be all that you want us to be. Feed us today with Your daily bread, Your very Word spoken to us. Help us to set our thoughts on things above and to speak only what will help and encourage others. Keep us from putting our foot in our mouth. Help us to treat each person we encounter as You would and have treated us; with respect and love, and forgiveness.


1 Graham, Billy. Day by Day with Billy Graham. (You Version Bible App, July 12).