Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Spiral of Watchful, Thankful Prayer

Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. (Colossians 4:2-4)
Paul now moves on from teaching about household relationships to offer a few words that will help the believers at Colosse keep properly focused on Jesus.
To “continue earnestly” in prayer means to be devoted to prayer, attentive to prayer, always ready to pray. The Greek word comes from a root that means to be steadfast. It is in the present tense and indicates that our devotion prayer is to be a continual activity. Elsewhere, Paul tells us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17; see How to Pray Without Ceasing).

Prayer is not simply about making requests. It is an act of worship, pressing into God with all our desires and concerns. It is an activity of the Holy Spirit at work in us. “For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).

Prayer is not just for set times but for the thousand moments of each day. It is a constant fellowship with God, a running conversation with Him as we encounter the world together. Nor is prayer a private activity. We pray when we are together, we pray when we are apart, but our prayers always belong to each other because we belong to each other, and it is the same Spirit praying in us all.

“Being vigilant” speaks of watchfulness, wakefulness, always being alert. With all the miracles he performed, Jesus said that He could do only what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19). He judged only as He heard the Father judge (John 5:30) and spoke only as the Father showed Him to speak (John 8:28), so that He did only those things which pleased the Father (John 8:29). In other words, He learned how to watch the Father and listen for His voice. The focus of our watchfulness, then, is the Father, and on Jesus, who shows us the Father. The Holy Spirit is given to help us in this, of whom Jesus said, “ All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He [the Holy Spirit] will take of mine and declare it to you.” Being alert, in our prayer, to the works of the Father, the things of Jesus and the activity of the Holy Spirit, we will come to all the understanding and discernment that we need.

As we continue in prayer and watchfulness, we discover how much we have to be thankful for, about King Jesus, how God is working through Him in the world, who He is in us and who we are in Him. Giving thanks to God for all He does and reveals to us brings the cycle of prayer to completeness, spinning our spiral of worship forward. It is in this prayerfulness, this watchfulness, this thankfulness — this worship — that we keep our focus properly oriented on King Jesus.

Paul also wants the believers at Colosse to be sure to remember him in their prayers, that God would give him and his associates (whom he will mention shortly) an “open door” for the message of the gospel. His passion is to preach the “mystery” of the Messiah to the whole world, to proclaim that Jesus is not just King of the Jews but the Lord of heaven and earth who has come to bring the shalom, the wholeness that comes from God, into all the world. He desires, as he said earlier, “to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). It is for this that he has gladly endured the chains of imprisonment, and he has no intention of backing down from it. He wants to make the mystery apparent, that it may be seen by all. And he wants to speak it boldly as well as clearly (see Ephesians 6:20).

The “open door” Paul seeks might be release from prison so that he can have greater mobility to go forth. But his passion for the good news about King Jesus is such that he is ready for the message to go forth even if he himself remained in chains.

Focus Questions
  1. Is devotion to prayer a dull or difficult thing to do, or a source of wonder and amazement for you?
  2. How does watching or listening for the Lord play into prayer?
  3. Why is thanksgiving important to this kind of watchfulness and prayer?

The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

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