Thursday, September 10, 2020

The Christian Opportunity for Prayer

"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity" (Colossians 4:5)

In Colossians 3:12–14, Paul tells us to pursue peaceful living with one another. Then, he tells us to be active in the worship of God through psalms (3:15–17). Next, he returns to social living and gives rules for various positions in society (3:18–4:1). In this passage, he returns to the theme of worship, this time focussing on prayer and witnessing (4:2–6).

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (4:2). How often our minds wander in prayer. Our sinfulness is such that we are still deeply hostile to God, and we find it hard to keep our minds focused on Him. Thus, we must be exhorted to be devoted to the work of prayer.

Biblical prayer is not superficial. Modern evangelicalism has become infected with extremely superficial prayer. We hear the word just stuck into every sentence: “Lord, we just want to thank you for Thy Word, and we just want to say, Lord, that we just thank you for this day.…” Do we ever speak to any other person this way? If we were being careful how we spoke, would we mix you and thou in the same sentence? Imagine a wife calling her husband at work and saying, “Honey, I just want to ask you to get some bread on thy way home, and I just really want to say that the kids have just been driving me wild today.”

God deserves better prayers than this. The best way to learn to communicate to God is to listen to Him. We should talk to Him using the same kind of language He uses in the Bible, especially in the Psalms, which train us in prayer. The traditional prayer books of various churches also contain prayers that approach God in a manner respectful of His majesty. Learning to pray such prayers can train us in how better to talk to Him.

Paul here draws a parallel between talking to God and talking to outsiders. Both should be done carefully. Paul wants them to pray for him that he might speak clearly and wisely. To speak clearly and wisely to people, we have to listen to them first in order to learn their language. Moreover, though outsiders may annoy and even anger us, we should study to make our conversations with them “full of grace, seasoned with salt” (4:6).

Prayer can be frightening. In some sense it should be, as we enter into the presence of the holy King. While we must take care to speak to God properly, we can be comforted by the work of the Holy Spirit, who takes our prayers and makes them acceptable to the Father. Thank the Spirit for that work.