Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.
May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
To be asked to pray in this season isn’t that difficult. Especially this month. So much violence around us that it’s hard to get our heads around it all. Despair in the faces of strangers we pass on the street and see in the stores. We’re traveling faster than our souls can go (as Carrie Newcomer, an Indiana folksinger would sing). For many of us, prayers are as close to us as our next breath. In this Advent season, many of us can find words for heartfelt prayers.
The words that go before and after “pray without ceasing” cause our hearts to pause…here this request is surrounded by “rejoice always” and “give thanks in all circumstances.” All circumstances? Truly? All? Doesn’t the writer know that there are people mourning around us this season? Doesn’t Paul (or whoever wrote these words) realize that there are people who are hungry and frightened? Can’t he see that there are sisters and brothers without work, wandering the streets of our town? Rejoicing?
These words were written to the early Thessalonian church. Many of her members had experienced persecution for their beliefs. They too knew of grief and mourning. They too knew of despair and hopelessness. Centuries ago theses words were written to a new faith community, and today these same words speak clearly for us to hear as well.
There is a blessing that accompanies these words, and our hearts would do well not to miss it: “May the God of peace sanctify you.” "Sanctify," to be made holy, to be set apart for a purpose. This blessing is to remind us that no one is ever alone on these cold, December days. This blessing is to light our path as the nights grow darker and we fear we may lose our way.
These words are to remind us that we are God’s precious children, you and I, called by name from our first breath until our last. Let us have faith and rejoice. Who knows what grace may be next?
Breath Prayer: “giving” “thanks”
Loving God, teach us to pray. Our December days feel so full. We feel rushed and at times lost in whirlwinds of our own creating. We see so much suffering near and far away from us. Teach us to pray so that we might draw closer to you in these whirl winding days. Restore our spirits, God of grace. May we pray with thankfulness and joy this day and always. Amen.
believes in beginnings and beginning again, in holding on and letting go, in God's presence as close as our next breath. Lesley works as a hospice Bereavement Coordinator in Atlanta. She is an ordained minister in the UCC and has just completed her second book, "Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon in 29 Days" (to be released early in 2015).