Summary: Sometimes it’s difficult to know how to pray and what to pray for. Paul challenges us to pray with devotion so that the gospel message will go out clearly as we give out grace to those who do not yet know Christ.
Knowing What to Pray For
Many of us have been on a trip together. As you look around this room it may not seem like it, but we’ve been fellow passengers and on several occasions, I’ve served as your tour guide. Our trips have not always been pleasant, but most have been memorable. In fact, at the very mention of a return visit, most of us cringe inside. The names for our excursions have not been something appealing like “Comfort Cruises” or “Glorious Getaways.” Instead, they’re known simply as “Guilt Trips.”
Some of us have been taking these kinds of trips for a very long time. And, sadly enough, many of our journeys of guilt have been launched in the church. As we near the conclusion of our study in the Book of Colossians, my goal this morning is not to heap more guilt on you but to send you off on an expedition of grace.
Please turn in your Bibles to Colossians 4:2-6 as I read: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Our text falls naturally into two parts.
· Prayer: Speaking to God about people (verses 2-4)
· Evangelism: Speaking to people about God (verses 5-6)
Now, before you shut down and take your mental guilt trip at the mention of prayer and evangelism, let’s allow the Holy Spirit to blow freshness through this passage. We’ve all heard messages on the need to pray and the need to witness and yet most of us struggle because we know we’re not doing enough. We know that prayer makes a difference, that we have access to the God of the universe, that we can have peace as we pray, and that without prayer, we are powerless. And yet, most of us don’t pray like we should.
Even though I love to pray, I find that there is nothing that my flesh resists quite as much as being still and seeking the Lord. Though communion with the Lord is life’s greatest pleasure, I often neglect it as if it were not even a priority. Prayer is at once the sweetest privilege we will ever enjoy on earth, and also the severest struggle we will endure.
In one sense, prayer is simple; but yet, it is also the most difficult part of the Christian life. Ask any believer about their battles, and nine out of ten will tell you that maintaining a warm and deepening prayer life is one of their greatest challenges. Because so many have struggled for so long, it’s tempting to not pray at all. But then we feel guilty for not trying harder to cultivate a life of prayer.
I can think of several obstacles to prayer.
· We may not yet have a true relationship with God. In order to experience the joy of answered prayer, it’s essential that you are able to call God your Father. You can do that only if you’ve received Jesus Christ into your life.
· We may be more focused on asking for things than on knowing God more intimately. James 4:3 tells us that sometimes we don’t receive because we’re asking with wrong motives.
· We’re too proud. If the truth were known, some of us don’t really feel like we need any help. James 4:6: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
· We view prayer as a chore. When we see something as a “have to” we often fight against it. Most of us know through experience that guilt trips are usually dead ends because guilt is a lousy motivator. Only grace can truly bring us to our knees.
Speaking to God About Others
Let’s look first at how to speak to God about others. Verse 2 answers the question, “How do we pray?” We discover three helpful guidelines in this verse: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”
1. Pray with devotion. The word, “devote” means to “adhere firmly to.” It implies unrelenting persistence and is the opposite of “hit and miss.” It brings back to mind how steadfast the early church was in 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.”
Being devoted in prayer is similar to cheering on your sports team, regardless of whether they are winning or losing. That means that when the Packers beat the Bears today you will still root for Chicago next Sunday. Paul is saying something quite simple: Keep praying. Don’t bail. Don’t give up. Be faithful. You may have dry times and days when you don’t know what to say, but keep praying anyway.