Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;
I. IT IS GREATLY NEEDED. The seven deacons were chosen partly in order that the apostles might not be hindered by temporal affairs from continuing steadfastly in prayer (Acts 6:4). St. Paul exhorts the Roman Christians to this same steadfastness (Romans 12:12). It is requisite on many accounts.
1. There are never wanting subjects that claim our prayers.
2. When we are least inclined to pray we are in most need of prayer.
3. Only constant prayer can be profoundly spiritual. It is the ever-flowing stream that wears the deep water course. The bird that soars high must be much on the wing.
4. Steadfastness in prayer is rewarded by Divine responses; e.g. Abraham's intercession for Sodom, the parable of the importunate widow, etc.
II. IT IS A SIGN OF SPIRITUAL HEALTH. After the ascension of their Lord the early Christians continued steadfastly in prayer (Acts 1:14); so did the converts of the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:42).
1. It shows a spiritual tone of mind. We may pray in special need without this, and we may pray at set seasons of devotion without it. But to live in an atmosphere of prayer, to pray because it is natural to us to talk with God, because we love communion with him, because prayer is our vital breath, and so to pray without ceasing from inward devotion rather than from external prompting, - all this is a sign of true spirituality.
2. It shows spiritual vigour. Such prayer is no mere listless droning of empty phrases, no sudden burst of temporary ejaculations. It implies a strong, deep energy of devotion.
III. IT IS DIFFICULT TO MAINTAIN. It is easy to cry out to God in great extremities. Prayerless men pray under such circumstances. It is easy, too, to pray when we are in a mood of devotion. The difficulty is to continue steadfastly in prayer. The hindrances are numerous.
1. Lack of interesting subjects of prayer. There may be nothing that touches us as a great want or strongly appeals to our sympathies at some seasons like the dire needs and touching claims that inspire our petitions at other times.
2. External distractions. The pressure of business, the din of the world's affairs, uncongenial society, even too absorbing Church work, especially in this age of rich activity and meagre contemplation, check prayer.
3. Internal hindrances. We are not always in the mood for prayer. Sometimes —
"Hosannas languish on our lips.
And our devotion dies." This may result from physical weariness. The spirit may be willing though the flesh is weak. We should then turn aside and rest awhile from the tiring work of the world. But it may result from sin. Sin is the greatest hindrance to prayer.
IV. IT MAY BE MAINTAINED BY THE GRACE OF GOD.
1. It is not to be revived in weakness by greater assiduity in formal devotion. It is a fatal mistake to confound long prayers with steadfast prayers, and to suppose that spending more time in saying prayers will strengthen our enfeebled spirit of prayer. It will have the opposite effect. Nothing hinders true prayer so much as continuing the form of devotion without the power.
2. The secret is to seek the reviving Spirit of God. If prayer is growing faint, there may still be energy for uttering the petition, "My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy Word" (Psalm 119:25). All true prayer is an inspiration. The deepest prayer comes from the striving of God's Spirit within us. "The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities... the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Romans 8:26). - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;