Friday, August 17, 2018

Colossians Words Day 17: Prayer

Day 17 ~ Prayer

Paul begins and ends most of his letters with a focus on prayer. To Paul, prayer is not simply a task we do to check off on our spiritual checklist; or something we turn to only in times of great need and desperation. To Paul, prayer is a lifestyle. A lifestyle modeled after Jesus Christ. Even the Son of God, who was himself God, found it vitally necessary to his life to pray to the Father. Prayer is a lifestyle, and prayer is about relationship with and dependence on God the Father.

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Colossians 4:2

Paul's letters are filled with exhortations to and examples of his lifestyle of prayer - his devotion to prayer:

"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to..." Colossians 1:9

"God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that..." Romans 1:9-10

"I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may..." Ephesians 1:16-17

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people." Ephesians 6:18

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Paul says here, in Colossians 4:2, that we are to be devoted to prayer and we are to be watchful. Another term for this would be keeping alert. Jesus told his disciples in the Garden at Gethsemane, "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14:38. Prayer helps us guard against temptation. It helps us keep our eyes open to God's activity in the world. It helps us keep our focus in God.

The other aspect of prayer that Paul calls us to is to be thankful. Thanksgiving acknowledges our reliance on God. It helps keep us in a posture of humility before God and in submission to His will. Commentary author, Marianne Meye Thompson says of this verse:
"One prays not in a spirit of fear, anxiety, or impatience, but with thanksgiving, in acknowledgement of one's need for others and reliance on God. Thanksgiving accompanies prayer because prayer and gratitude both manifest and grow out of the humble, open posture of trust in God which lies at the heart of the life of faith."

I have often struggled in my walk with Christ with prayer being an afterthought, something to turn to when I have exhausted all other activities or when I am desperate. I think it is a fault of being strongly independent. But in recent years, even in recent months, the practice of thanksgiving has moved prayer to the front of the line. Turning to God first with thanksgiving,  whether the situation is good or bad, has actually caused me to pray more often and more immediately. An attitude of thanksgiving helps bring God to my mind and helps me stay focused on Him, and has led me to prayer more often. Being thankful takes the focus off whether or not the prayer in answered and keeps the focus simply on God - praising Him and worshiping Him. As Paul says in the passage above in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 - "this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

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