2 Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.
3 At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah, for which I am in prison, 4 so that I may reveal it as I am required to speak. 5 Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. 6 Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Today’s passage opens with the Apostle Paul’s instruction to be devoted and alert in your prayer life. He provides three perspectives to guide our prayers: 1) diligence, 2) awareness, and 3) thankfulness.
Diligence, or devotion, means to be engaged and persistent in our prayers, to make prayer a priority in our life and to maintain a prayerful attitude throughout the day. Awareness means to stay awake and spiritually alert when we pray, to be present and not allow our minds to wander, or our bodies to sleep, while praying. Thankfulness means to pray with gratitude for God’s blessings and to recognize that all we are and all we have come from Him.
Once Paul has instructed the church on the proper perspectives of prayer, he asks them to pray specifically for him and his needs. This type of prayer is known as intercession or intercessory prayer.
In his work Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney reminds us: “Everyone is devoted to something. Most of us are devoted to many things. Paul instructs and encourages us to be devoted to prayer; knowing that if we are devoted to it we will sacrifice for it and make it a priority in our life.”
Martin Luther expressed it this way, “As it is the business of tailors to make clothes and of cobblers to make shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.”
Many pray with an open Bible and are devoted to the habits of Bible study and prayer. As they read and study the Bible, God reveals Himself and speaks to them through His inspired Word. This often leads believers into prayerful conversation with God. One habit shouldn’t be elevated above the other when using this practice.
If you’re reading the Bible and God speaks to your heart or mind, you should pause your reading and talk to God about what He is saying to you. The same is true with prayer. If you’re praying and are led to passages in the Bible, prayerfully open your Bible and allow God to speak to you through the words on the pages.
Several years ago, my first wife was diagnosed with breast cancer that eventually led to her death. I’d always been a person of prayer. Yet in the moment of crisis, I was forced to make the decision to trust that God would hear and answer my prayers or that all I’d believed and practiced regarding prayer was untrue and that God either didn’t care or couldn’t do anything about what I was going through.
I determined I’d trust God, share my anger, pain, and desires with Him, and believe He’d answer my prayer in a way that was best for me and my family—even if I didn’t understand or agree with His answer. I remained diligent, aware, and thankful in my prayer life.
This is faith. And though God didn’t answer my prayers the way I asked, I believe He heard my prayer and answered in the way that was best for me and my family.
Let’s practice diligence, awareness, and thankfulness in our prayer life today:
- First diligence. Set aside time to pray today. Don’t allow anything to get in the way of your commitment. Make prayer a priority. Block out the time on you planner or type it into Outlook. Determine where you will pray and prepare the space by removing distractions. Start on time and don’t rush to finish. Maintain a proper and prayerful attitude throughout the day.
- Next awareness. Open your prayer time by writing down your prayers. (You don’t have to have your eyes closed when you are engaged in personal prayer) Stay focused and don’t allow your mind to wander. If it does pray this simple prayer “Jesus, help me to keep my mind focused on you”. Once you have completed your prayer list, bow your head, get quiet and settled and enter a time of prayer focusing on the things on your list. Stay awake and alert even when tempted to fall asleep. Make the most of your time with God.
- Finally thankfulness. End your time by thanking God for His blessings on your life. Don’t hurry. Simply say, thank you God for _____ and continue as long as you remain engaged with God in prayer.