Summary: Paul promotes the purposes of prayer as Watchfulness, Thankfulness and Effectiveness.
42 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 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. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Purpose of Prayer:
Watching and praying are often associated in the Bible. Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, encouraged his Disciples to watch and pray with him as he contemplated the cross. I think Jesus was telling them more than simply to stay awake and pray, or to be watchful and pray. They fell asleep. Jesus told them “pray that you enter not into temptation”. I think this was more than just an exhortation to the content of prayer-I think Jesus was indicating the expected results of prayer. Prayer changes your perspective; it changes the way you look at yourself and the world. I can’t help but wonder what might have happened if the Disciples had stayed awake with Jesus and prayed that night.
Elisha prayed for his servant “Lord, open his eyes so he can see”. The servant looked and saw horses and chariots of fire surrounding the prophet. Our first prayer should be that the Lord would give us eyes to see things as he sees them-to grant us his perspective. Prayer wakes us up to the spiritual realities around and within us. This is its first purpose. The next purpose for prayer is that we would be truly grateful.
I don’t know about you, but I often burden God first thing with all my complaints and requests. I bring to him all the things I want him to change. But truth be thought and known I always have much more to be thankful for than to complain about. The thing is we all have a negativity bias (I’ve talked about this elsewhere). We obsess over the things that are not right rather than obsessing over the things that are too good to comprehend. There is so much to thank God for-life, health, family, friends, calling, mission, the goodness of God, the gift of his Son, his Spirit, truth, faithfulness, constancy, forgiveness-the list goes on. Set aside the mental, social, physical and spiritual benefits of thankfulness, we shouldn’t pray without thanking God; it’s just wrong. But Paul spends most of his prayer request & exhortation focused on effectiveness.
Paul was an evangelist, and he asks for prayer that he would be diligent and effective in his calling even when he was in prison. What’s your calling? Our prayer should be that we would “walk in wisdom”. Every calling is an opportunity to give witness/testimony concerning God, if we do it well. Are you in business? Do business wisely and honestly. Are you a home maker? Make your home beautiful, a reflection of our destined heavenly glory. Are you a performer? Make music that draws people to a higher calling and purpose, and do so with such excellence that the world takes notice. In all things, be effective so that your life creates opportunities to show people the goodness of our God.
Prayer for Today
(from the old hymn by Clara Scott)
Open my eyes that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Thank you! Thank you for life, and love, and your truth. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you for the cross. Thank you for love and joy and all the other gifts of your Spirit. Thank you for the brief time you’ve given us on this planet to enjoy its goodness. Thank you for the promised hope we have in you.
Make my life count. Use me at work, at home, in every relationship, to draw people to you and your goodness and your truth. Shine your light in me and use me as the light of the world. Make this world a better place because you’ve placed me here.
In the name of Jesus, who makes this world a better place still, even though he died and rose again almost two thousand years ago. Make my life like that.