Father, two of today’s verses have saved me when I needed to recite Bible verses as a child. As far as I know, they are two of only three verses that contain only two words. I Thessalonians 5:16 “Rejoice always” and 5:17 “Pray continually”. Because they contain only two words, (making them easy to memorize and remember) and are so straightforward and to the point, I’ve always considered them important.
I loved English in school, and learned that when no subject is present, like these verses, the subject ‘you’ is understood. So whomever the speaker is speaking to is commanded to do the verb that follows. A command is stronger than a simple statement. When given by someone with authority it means to obey immediately, without further thought or discussion. In these cases, I am to “rejoice” and “pray”.
Rejoice means to feel or show great joy or delight. It is the opposite of showing sadness. It is not whining or complaining. It is not arguing or showing anger. I don’t think it means I can never have a negative emotion or express my feelings, but I should be looking to see the good side of what is going on in my life. I should be watching for things to be joyful about, and then let others see why I am joyful.
Pray, very simply, means to talk to You. The adverbs that follow each verb tell me how to do the action the verb specifies. So when it comes to “rejoice”, the word is “always”. In other words (or in the same words) in ‘all ways’, in all things, in all circumstances, I need to be looking for the joy You bring me.
And the adverb for “pray” is “continually”, meaning ‘all the time, repeated frequently, constantly, without interruption’.
So, at all times, in all situations, in all things, I should strive to show my joy and be in communication with You. Along with “give thanks in all circumstances”, “this is God’s will for you”, these directives tell me it is Your desire to hear from me. And to hear my gratefulness.
Paul said these words to believers who were enduring hardship and persecution. How much more should I be able to find things in my easy, twenty-first century life of freedom to be thankful and joyful about? These are convicting Words, Father. And Words of instruction and encouragement! Thank You for making them so easy to remember! Amen