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Welcome back to our fourth installment of the Celebrating God at Work and School Series.
If you’re just joining us, please go back to episode 99 and start there. And I’ll see you back here when you’ve listened to the first three parts.
And for those of you returning with us — eagerly anticipating God’s fourth set of expectations for our education and employment — let me just remind you that you can access today’s free episode notes, transcript, and worship resources at CelebrationofGod.com.
And with that shorter-than-usual-introduction, let’s begin.
So far we’ve studied the biblical responsibilities of Learning, Living, Following, Leading, Acting, and Speaking while we’re on the job and in the school.
Obviously, the theological realities underpinning those six words are far more important than the words themselves. I’ve chosen to use the eight words of this series merely as a simple mnemonic device. It would be very easy to put these eight words up in your cubical or write them inside your school binder as a constant reminder to you of God’s expectations for you.
They won’t take up much space, and they’re easy to memorize.
And it’s also important for us to remember that each of these concepts flows from the prior ones. I will never Act and Speak in accordance with God’s Word and Lead others to do the same if I’m not Following God’s commands in Scripture. And that will — obviously — require that I Follow my earthly authorities in a way that pleases the Lord.
And I’m not going to do any of that if I’m not daily Living in accordance with the lesson that I’ve Learned about how God wants to use every interaction I have in school and at work in order to further conform me to the image of Christ and give Him all the glory.
And, so it should not surprise us that today’s double expectation would grow naturally from all that went before it.
When I understand God’s will for my work, I will live in it. That will mean that I am going to follow my earthly authorities as I follow Christ, and whether I’m in authority or not, I will be leading everyone who interacts with me by example. And the intentional salt and light of my actions and words will further glorify our Father Who is in Heaven. And if that’s how I approach work and school every day, then you’d better believe that I’m also going to spend a lot of time at work and school Praying and Praising.
So, let’s look together at I Thessalonians 5:16-18 as we strive to better understand what Praying and Praising looks like on the job.
“Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
These commands are God’s will for you in Christ Jesus regardless of where you are. So, yes, these are not merely required while you’re at church. They’re required of you at church, home, school, work, on the soccer field, in marital arts class, on a date, at the movies . . . everywhere.
So, let’s look at the three commands in these three verses, understand them, and then discuss how we can practically do these things when we’re also supposed to be 100% focused on the task before us.
1. We must rejoice always.
“Rejoicing” is not a term we often use in today’s culture. In fact, nearly all of the time Christians use it they only use it in a spiritual sense.
But to rejoice is actually a very normal idea. In fact, we do it all the time. You rejoice in your food. You rejoice in your favorite relationships. You rejoice in your video games. You rejoice in your free time. You rejoice in your music. You rejoice in lots and lots of things.
But here’s the expectation. God is commanding us to rejoice always. What does that look like, and how is it possible?
Well, first we must recognize that Paul is not telling us to merely enjoy everything we do. In fact, it’s humanly impossible to enjoy everything we do because we humans are incapable of enjoying things that we believe are bad. And there’s no sinful human being who has ever lived who was able to sustain perpetual joy in all events and difficulties of life.
That would require divine intervention.
And this reality — though it may not have been clearly stated in verse 16 — is taught throughout the rest of the book, and nearly every one of Paul’s letters.
Let’s consider Philippians 4:4 as one such example, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” The only way we will ever be able to sustain a constant state of rejoicing in all things is if that rejoicing is first and foremost founded on God.
And this truth goes all the way back to what we learned in Part 1 of this series. When I Learn Who God is and what His will is for my life, I need to Live in that reality. And living in that reality is going to look like rejoicing always.
How can I not rejoice in all things — regardless of how comfortable or uncomfortable they may be — when I believe that the all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing God of the universe is actively working all things in my life to His greatest glory and my greatest good . . . which will result in my becoming more and more like my awesome Savior?
It will be impossible to not rejoice when that reality is filling my gaze.
So, this first command to “rejoice always” encapsulates what we’ve already learned.
Therefore, we must ask, “What will naturally flow from a lifestyle that intentionally and consciously rejoices in the Lord always?”
Well . . .
2. We must pray without ceasing.
Now, this is a massively gigantic lesson we simply do not have the time today to fully unpack. Thankfully, I’m looking forward to a future series where we really dive into the biblical data concerning prayer. And we will definitely talk about this concept of praying without ceasing again at that time.
By the way, if you’re listening to this in the future, check out CelebrationOfGod.com to see if that series has already been published. Who knows, it may already be done.
But for now I do want to try to make this practical for us so that we can start growing in this arena today.
But before I do that, I want us all to recognize the superlatives used in each of these commands.
Pray without ceasing.
In everything give thanks.
God doesn’t just say things He doesn’t mean. The expectation is real. It’s not merely figurative language. It’s not empty hyperbole to make a point. By the grace of God and through His strength, we can rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all things.
But we will definitely need to focus our efforts in growing in these areas. In fact, we will have to continue growing in these areas until the day we die.
But don’t let this discourage you. In Luke 2 we learn that even Jesus grew in wisdom . . . and He was without sin!
So, don’t necessarily expect to be able to start praying without ceasing as soon as this episode is over. But — on the other hand — don’t throw your hands up and quit trying just because you can’t be perfect. Just like Jesus did, we must consciously and intentionally strive to get better and better.
That’s the whole purpose of The Year Long Celebration of God. We want to worship Him better this year than we did the year before. It’s a process of being conformed to His image from one degree of glory to another.
So, how can we develop our prayer lives while at work and school?
Well, no doubt there’s a lot of prayer that happens in each of those arenas in times of great stress. It’s amazing how even atheists may be tempted to pray in a time of corporate lay-offs or right before an exam for which they did not adequately prepare.
And, yes, I do believe that praying without ceasing includes the times we ask for emergency help as well as the times we thank the Lord for our lunch and beg Him for strength to meet a challenge. But our prayer can encompass so much more than that.
As I’ve been growing in my discipleship over the past ten years, I’ve really been striving to intentionally root my motivation for all I do in God’s glory. I went from praying before I preached and counseled, to remembering to pray before I played with my kids and celebrated major holidays. And I’ve also been growing toward praying before I shower and brush my teeth.
Should I not glorify God just as much while brushing my teeth as I should while preaching? Do I not need God’s grace and power to please Him in the shower as I do when I’m counseling? Of course I still need Him!
But we’ll never think that way if A. We don’t learn the truth that we learned last time — that our motivation for our “good works” is more important than the actual work itself, and if B. I think I have the ability to shower and brush my teeth just fine without God.
In actuality, I need to recognize that I can’t ever please the Lord without Him. And my ability to celebrate God while choosing my clothes, shopping for food, going to the movies, and teaching my kids their colors are equally impossible for me to do in my own strength as celebrating God while preaching is.
So, I believe that praying without ceasing starts first with the humble realization that there is not a single thing you are going to do today that you do not need God in order to do in a way that pleases Him. We must not allow ourselves to arrogantly think that we can — in our own power and for our own glory — please God in even the smallest task.
This realization should constantly remind me how much I need to depend on the Lord at every moment of my day.
Therefore, if you are not in the habit of perpetual prayer, start praying for the humility needed to understand how important prayer is.
And then you should make sure that you have a healthy prayer life in the areas that average Christians may consider the “big ticket” items. Of course, they’re not inherently any more important than praying for anything else, but they are viewed as being culturally good times to pray.
1. Praying before meals.
2. Praying before you go to bed.
3. Praying before you get out of bed.
4. Praying before religious experiences like personal devotions, church services, and biblical counseling/discipleship.
5. Praying during times of intense pressure.
Those are the ones that most Christians do — if for no other reason — than it’s their habit. To be honest, a lot of unbelievers pray during these exact same times.
By the way, mindless habituated prayer doesn’t please God any more than not praying. We must be intentional and offer our prayers as an act of purposeful worship to God. Don’t turn your brains off.
But here are some additional prayer prompts that are less common.
6. Praying before you share the Gospel.
7. Praying before traveling.
8. Praying before entering work or school.
9. Praying before a big event in which you’re participating.
10. And instead of just praying before any of the things we’ve mentioned, trying to pray during each of them as well.
Many of you likely do these things, and all of us should. But this next category starts to stretch the limits of our prayer lives and tends to be regularly practiced be an increasingly smaller group of people.
11. Praying during your commutes, workouts, and other less mentally distracting activities.
12. Praying during projects and homework.
13. Praying during individual classes and meetings.
14. Praying while you do your chores.
15. Praying while playing with your kids.
Now you’re probably wondering what this practically looks like, and we’re getting there, but let me give you five more increasingly unique times for most Christians to pray.
16. Praying during daily hygiene routines.
17. Praying while participating in entertainment like movies, concerts, and games.
18. Praying while you bathe your kids, explain the mundane things of life, answer the 80th question, and even discipline them. It’s sad that this category of life is so often neglected in our prayer.
19. Praying while scrolling through social media.
20. Praying while choosing your outfit or planning your meal.
Now, guess what, this list could get longer and longer and more and more specific. We can pray during and for every single action, word, feeling, thought, desire, belief, and event of our lives.
But the real question at this moment is not when to pray but what to pray.
Again, this is a massive topic we’ll investigate more in the future, but here are some prayer prompts I teach my students and counselees. And I’ll illustrate what each of these sounds like as we pray from something on the last list. Let’s say, choosing your clothes for work or school.
1. Celebrate God for Who He is and what He’s done.
And since God is infinite, I’m only going to give one simple example of what this looks like.
“Lord, your creativity and love for beauty is so amazing. Thank you for sharing that with me as I dress myself this morning.”
2. Thank God for the situation you’re in or will soon be in.
“Father, I thank you that I get to go to school today. I thank you that You supply all of my needs, including these clothes.”
3. Advocate for the people around you.
As your family gets ready for the day, “Dear God, please use each tiny moment of this day to open my families eyes to your presence and will.”
As you put on that shirt your aunt gave to you, “Dear Lord, thank you for my Aunt, please comfort her today.”
As you consider the people with whom you will interact today, “Lord, may the clothes I wear not distract people from glorifying you as they interact with me today. May they reflect my love for you and others as everything else I do and say today. May they play a small part in my Gospel testimony.”
4. Ask for what you need.
Maybe money is tight, and your clothes need to be replaced. “Heavenly Father, I thank you that you always give us exactly what we need. Please help me find a Christ-honoring replacement for these pants. They’re so worn out I don’t believe they’re helping my testimony.”
Or perhaps you’re learning the importance of dressing appropriately for occasions. “Dear God, I want to learn to do things decently and orderly. Please help me give more thought to my responsibilities today than merely wearing what seems cool or comfortable to me.”
But there’s also an amazing category of prayer that focuses specifically on what we need to actually worship God with the activity before us. That may sound something like, “God, I’ve never given much thought to dressing as an act of worship. But it is, Lord, and as I put my clothes on this morning, I want to please you while I do it. I want to please you in my actions, but I realize I can’t do that unless I’m also pleasing you with my desires and intentions. Lord, I am worshipping you today by the apparel I’m choosing.”
And then 5. Tell God that you trust Him.
“Dear Lord, I trust the plan you have for me right now. I trust that where you have me in this life, in this house, with these clothes, with these people, they’re all exactly where I need to be. And I trust your plan for how I interact with all of it. I want to obey you today.”
Now, you may be thinking, “Aaron, there isn’t enough time to pray all of that in the time it takes me to pull out the same uniform I have to wear every day and put it on.
And that’s okay. I’m not saying you have to pray all of those words or any of those words. But can’t you see how if you pulled from those categories, you could easily find yourself in a perpetual spirit of prayer in any and all situations your life?
Well, to be honest, I’ve taken more time on that point than I originally planned. I hope it’s beneficial in opening your eyes to the real, achievable possibility of growing your ceaseless prayer.
And thankfully, our next point is actually going to be pretty short considering that we’ve already talked a lot about it today.
1. We must rejoice always.
2. We must pray without ceasing. And . . .
3. We must be thankful for everything.
This too is actually a large discussion we will have in more depth later, but — for now — let’s recap what we’ve learned.
A. We can always be thankful for the fact that God desires to use every comfortable and uncomfortable situation and experience in our lives to mature us and bring Him the glory He deserves.
B. We can always be thankful for Who God is and the specifics of what He he’s done and is doing.
C. We can always be thankful for the people in our lives.
D. We can always be thankful for His daily provision. Whatever we’re involved in whether it be work, school, parenting, entertainment, vacations, or discipline is something that God has provided specifically for you — yes, to mature you — but also, more basically, to provide for your needs.
E. We can always thank Him for His will for our lives.
Now, just imagine how your internal spiritual focus can thrive and abound as you keep up a conversation with God that includes thanksgiving for your time at work and school.
Not only will it mature your relationship with God, but it will be impossible to be mad, unthankful, depressed, or afraid as your eyes are perpetually on God and the truth about the situation you’re in. Complaining will cease, discontentment will melt away, laziness will vanish, shoddy work will disappear, and you will become a better employee and student than you ever were.
But, there’s likely one more question in your mind.
We’ve learned that we should be in a perpetual state of prayer and praise while at work and school. And we have a much better idea of how do practically achieve that.
“But, Aaron, couldn’t all of that prayer and praise actually distract us from what we’re supposed to be doing while we’re at work and school?”
And that is a fantastic question.
One of my biggest critiques of monastic living — aside from the doctrinal errors — is not that constant Bible study, prayer, and praising God in song is somehow bad, but that nuns and monks end up being so detached from the world. Truly monastic living is literally cloistered. It’s secluded. It doesn’t allow them to be the salt and light in the world that God commands, to go into all nations preaching the gospel and discipling souls.
And, let’s be honest, you can’t read your Bible and your college textbook at the same time. You have to choose one over the other.
So, how do we pray and praise without ceasing and yet put our full attention into what we’re doing?
And that is a hugely important question.
1. Truly God-centered prayer and praise will never distract from what God wants us to do.
That would be completely defeating the purpose. I cannot sincerely pray that my math homework be done all to the glory of God while my pen and paper sit motionless to the side or I don’t do my best to solve the problems. God won’t be glorified by that.
The purpose of these prayers is to consciously focus our minds on the motivation for our activity, but it should never distract from the actual performance of the activity.
So, yes, as I’ve been recording this episode, my mind has been carefully applied to keeping my lips moving in an understandable way. But, by God’s grace, and by prayer before I started, and prayer when I’ve stopped to correct mistakes, and a continued conscious realization that this is not being done for my glory and good but for God’s glory and your good, I am trying to maintain a spirit of God-focused purpose as I record.
And I need to do the same thing as I produce the episode, upload it, and then move on to whatever may come next in my day.
And my intentional purpose to glorify God while living my life needn’t distract from actually living my life.
Yes, sometimes I’ll commit myself to nothing but devoted prayer, but other times that ceaseless spirit of Christ-honoring motivation can overlay my attention as I fulfill my tasks.
And in the same way that God-centered prayer and praise will never distract me from God’s will for my life . . .
2. Truly God-centered prayer and praise will overlap God’s will for my life.
When I’m in math class, my prayers should be about how I can best please the Lord in math class.
“Father, please help me understand this concept,” or “Thank you that I’m finally getting this concept.”
“Lord, forgive me for being proud about my test score. Everything I have comes from you,” or “Thank you so much for the grace to get a good grade.”
“Dear God, as I work with this study group, may my testimony glorify you,” or “Thank you for allowing me to get paired with this student who doesn’t like me very much. I know you want to use this situation for my greatest good and your greatest glory.”
“Dear Holy Spirit, please help my atheistic teacher to see that math is the universal language of divine intelligence, not the product of chaos. May math declare your glory in her eyes,” or “Thank you Lord for giving me the opportunity to winsomely and wisely point out that math is something you created.”
In this way, my prayer and praise actually accentuates the task on which my mind should be focused.
And . . .
3. Truly God-centered prayer and praise doesn’t have to always utilize words.
In Romans 8:26 we learn, “The Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
I love this for so many reasons. One beautiful reality is that the Holy Spirit helps us pray. Another is that the Holy Spirit prays for us. And another is that the Holy Spirit sometimes prays for us without words.
Another way to translate that phrase would be to say that He prays for us with groanings inexpressible. No words can explain them.
Now, let me stave off some possible misunderstanding. I do believe that purposeful prayer that utilizes human language must be the bread and butter of our prayers lives. It’s how Jesus prayed, it’s how He taught us to pray, and it’s the prayer that is most illustrated throughout the Scriptures.
I do not believe that prayer is synonymous with transcendental meditation or mere emotional expressions of unintelligible sensations.
But I do believe that what I sometimes call a “spirit of prayer” is sustained by intentional purpose that threads its way through an experience in desires and affections that may or may not always have linguistic expression.
Sometimes the incoherent weeping of a young woman is all the prayer that can be mustered. Sometimes the intentional focus of a desire for God’s presence, protection, and provision is all we can express.
And that is often quite alright because not only is the Holy Spirt going to help us, and not only is He going to pray for us, some of His prayers for us are also too deep for words.
Again, it’s hard to quantify this, and so it can become subjective very quickly. We need to be very careful that we don’t develop an unbiblical doctrine of “feeling our prayers.” But we shouldn’t neglect the place of unspoken longing for God and His glory.
My friends, when you go to school, God wants you to Learn and Live, Follow and Lead, Act and Speak, and Pray and Praise. And if you are doing those things, it will be impossible for you to not be the best student you can be.
When you go to work, God wants you to Learn and Live, Follow and Lead, Act and Speak, and Pray and Praise. And if you are doing those things, it will be impossible for you to not be the best employee you can possibly be.
These things are not distractions from the more important tasks of the day, they actually give value to your education and employment, they make it possible for you to truly succeed in them, and by doing them you are submitting to the one authority Who is above all things and in all things and for Whom we should sacrifice our lives as a reasonable service of worship.
If this series has been a blessing for you, please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets, and check out the other amazing series at CelebrationOfGod.com.
And join us next time as we seek to better know, love, and worship God and help the people in our lives do the same.
To that end, we’ll be discussing ways to worship God in April.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.