Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV
What is the relationship between joy, prayer, and thanksgiving?
Be joyful always
Look back over your Christian life and see what God has done. God has been teaching you (4:9). He has placed you among other believers who encourage and build you up (5:11). He has revealed to you the outcome of your life—to be with the Lord forever in the great company of His people with ever-increasing joy (4:17). These things are true of you, so choose to rejoice in them—always! Christian joy flows from realizing our position in Christ.
Give thanks in all circumstances
Out of that joy, you will find yourself giving thanks to God. Notice that we are to give thanks “in all circumstances,” not “for all circumstances.” God does not ask you to try and convince yourself that you are thankful for something wretched. Love does not rejoice in evil. Love gives thanks in all circumstances. So give thanks that God is on the throne. Give thanks that your life is in the hands of Christ. Give thanks that even in the most wretched things of life, the Spirit of God is forming in you a unique likeness of Jesus Christ that will shine for all eternity.
Some of us feel we don’t pray as we should, and when we hear “pray continually,” we have an immediate sense of guilt and failure. Others feel deeply committed to prayer, and when we hear this we are tempted to self-righteousness. But no one prayed more than the Pharisees. Neither of these responses is God’s will for you. God’s will for your prayer life is not that it would flow from guilt or self-righteousness, but rather from joy. So be joyful always and pray continually.
Which of these seems hardest to you? Why?