2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. 3 Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. 4 Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.
The Christian life is about journeying with God; unfortunately many of us miss the intimacy of this journey because we have gotten on the wrong road only to experiencing an entirely different trip. None of us are immune from this excursion, we’ve all been fellow passengers on several occasions and sad to say I have even served as your tour guide on some of these trips. The name of these trips is Guilt and some of us have been taking these trips for a very long time. Guilt is never a comfort cruise but a cursed one where we end up battered by the waves of anger and the winds of resentment. Many of us hear the words “Devote yourselves to prayer” and all we see is something more we need to do, so we miss the call to intimacy. Prayer is a vehicle to intimacy with the Father, yet many times we focus on the work of prayer instead of the where of prayer, where it will take us. When we forget to entertain the destination of prayer we stop focusing on the Father and we focus on effort. The focus of prayer is not in the doing but the going because prayer is not something we do its somewhere we go. Are you focusing on the destination of prayer? Where is your prayer life taking you? Where do you want it to take you? Guilt trips are dead ends because guilt is an evil motivator, sure it gets us to do the work buts its destination is never relational, instead of transporting us into intimacy it dumps us into despair. Today I want to invite you on a different trip I want you to trade in your guilt trip for a grace trip. Guilt may get you to do the work of prayer but only grace can truly bring you to your knees. Will you come with me and focus on what we need (intimacy with the Father) not what it takes to get there (prayer)?
Colossians 4:2-4 falls into two parts with two questions.
- How do we pray?
- What do we pray?
Today we will look at the question, “How do we pray?” and discover three helpful guidelines from verse 2
To devote yourself means to give yourself to, it’s an unrelenting persistence and is the opposite of “hit and miss.” It reminds me of the early church, Acts 2:42: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” In Luke 18:1, “Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Paul is saying something quite simple, keep praying, don’t bail, don’t give up, be faithful. You will have dry times and days when you don’t know what to say, but give yourself anyway. You can always tell those who are a devoted to their sports team, it’s not based on how the team is doing, they are cheering regardless of whether they are winning or losing. What are you giving yourself to? Have you made prayer about the results or the relationship?
Paul doesn’t leave us with just an exhortation to devotion he also gives a couple tips on how to remain devoted in our praying:
Verse 2 continues by saying that we’re to be “watchful” or awake when we pray. This exhortation brings to mind the words of Jesus to His disciples on the night when He was betrayed, Mark 14:34, 38: “Stay here and keep watch…Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Watchful prayer provides the spiritual fortitude to face down temptation. Peter did not stay awake, instead he traded prayer for sleep and he gave in to the temptation to denied Christ just a few hours later. Think for a moment about the difference between two military sentries: One is guarding the local armory here in small town USA the other is guarding a platoon in Tora Bora, Afghanistan. Which one is probably going to be more attentive, more watchful? The one who realizes he’s in a battle. Do you know that you are in a battle, a spiritual battle? 1 Peter 5:8 paints a real picture of the war we are in: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” We need to stay on high alert at all times.
Thanksgiving deals with the attitude of prayer because gratitude is a stimulus to prayer. Regardless of the circumstances that surround us we can always thinking of at least one thing to thank God for. In this life there are times when we have to look into the abyss of our circumstances, it may be a health concern, a relational loss or a financial failure. Yet in the pit of despair He is there, His presence, His provision, His pardon, His promises, and His purposes. Paul knew crippling circumstances in his own life and he didn’t just preach thankfulness he practiced it. Listen to his heart of thanksgiving recorded in Colossians:
· 1:3: “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.”
· 1:12: “Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”
· 2:7: “Rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
· 3:15-17: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Is it time for you to trade in your guilt trip and travel the highway of grace? Is it time to devote yourself to an intimate relationship, to wake up and be watchful with a thankful heart?