What It Looks Like To Give All To Christ, Part 1.

Grace For The Journey


  Blaise Pascal, the 17th Century French mathematician and Christian philosopher, once wrote these words when writing to a friend: “I’ve written you a long letter because I didn’t have time to write a short one.”  This statement reminds us of the difficult task of editing!

One of the more challenging tasks of a preacher or writer it to learn the ability to cut down the number of written words in a sermon or article.  Public communication is not all about getting as many words spoken or onto a page as possible.  The economy of words and crafting of words, or “word-smithing,” is an important part of the speaking and writing process.  You write a draft, then you write another draft, and still another, all the while trying to say the same thing each time in as few words as possible.  

What the Apostle Paul communicates here in Colossians 4:2-6 strikes me as a very succinct, yet thorough, statement about Christian living.  Paul could have written much more – and indeed he has elsewhere! – but here in these five verses Paul provides a short, concise, yet relatively comprehensive statement on what we could call “Living the Christian Life and What It Looks Like.”

We are framing our study of this passage around four participles—praying, sharing, living, and speaking.

**Four Basics of Christian Living: “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.  Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.  Let you speak always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one”  (Colossians 4:2-6).

Paul begins with . . .

Grateful Praying

The verb translated here as “devote,” (proskarterevw / proskartereô) means “to give unremitting attention, continue steadfastly, persevere.”  It is not the idea that it is the only thing that occupies your mind and time, for that would not only be physically impossible but also would then demand the neglect of all of God’s other commands.  It is the idea that “you keep coming back to it.”  You do not give up on it. You will give your attention to other things, but you will return once again to diligent prayer. That was part of the point of Jesus’ parable in Luke 18 about the widow that keep petitioning the judge.  We need to persevere in prayer.

There are many errors that can mess up our prayer life, and as in most cases, the two most common ones are the opposite extremes.  When Jesus taught His disciples about prayer in Matthew 6:5-15, He corrected some of the wrong practices common at that time and which continue to this day: 1) Jesus first pointed out that the religious hypocrites prayed to be seen by men and so gained their reward from men. God does not pay heed to such supposed prayers.  Prayer is about talking with God and it is from Him you will receive so make sure He is the one to whom you are actually talking.  Do not be like the Pharisee in Luke 18:11 who prayed “thus to himself,” nor like the religious hypocrites who prayed to impress other people.  When you pray, you talk with God and make Him the focus of your attention even if other people are around; 2) Jesus pointed out the practice of the Gentiles who prayed with meaningless repetition and with many words thinking that was the way to get God to pay attention and answer them.  Many religions including some that claim to be Christian actually teach this practice.  Jesus corrected this by pointing out the practice was contrary to God’s character.  The Father knows what you need before you even ask, so meaningless repetition and long, wordy prayers are a waste of time.  Prayer is not about making God aware, for He already knows everything, nor is it about swaying Him to your point of view, for His point of view is far superior.

The opposite extreme of this is just as deadly to a healthy prayer life.  Those who think they have to wear God down will spend a lot of time in prayer trying to do so in order to get what they want.  Those who emphasize God’s sovereignty can fall into the danger of a practical fatalism.  Prayer becomes a duty which diminishes over time because if God is going to do what He is going to do, then why spend a lot of time trying to change His mind?  Underlying this is a false understanding of God, His nature, and the purpose of prayer.

We often refer to Matthew 6:9-11 as “The Lord’s Prayer,” but it is actually a pattern of prayer for the disciples.  The pattern of prayer Jesus gave to us focuses on the position and nature of God and acknowledgment of our dependence upon Him.  All the petitions within it match promises God has already made, so our requests are not so much to gain them, but to acknowledge that we are dependent on receiving them from His hand.

That then brings us to the purpose of prayer.  

It is not about us getting our way

Or convincing God to change His mind.

It is about glorifying Him through

Declaration of His position and nature,

Acknowledging our dependence upon Him

And aligning our will with His will

So that we might be used by Him.

Now in saying this I must make the disclaimer that from the human perspective it appears that God is swayed by prayer and so it will be described in those terms.  There are many examples of answered prayer throughout the Scriptures including Moses’ entreaty in Exodus 32:11-13 to which the Lord “changed His mind” about the harm He was going to bring.  James 5:16 gives Elijah as an example and then states that “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”  Many people also point out verses such as John 14:13, 14:16, or 16:24, where Jesus states that if we ask anything in His name He will do it or God will give it.  

However, it must always be pointed out that there are qualifiers to those promises concerning prayer.  It must be in His name which means according to what Jesus’ desires or as stated clearly in 1 John5:14-15,
“And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us [in] whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”

All prayer is dependent upon God and His will.

The good thing is that the Lord God

Is not arbitrary, but is always consistent

With Himself and takes into

Account all of His promises.

This includes relenting from judgment, for as Joel 2:13 states, “He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, And relenting of evil.”  We do not know what He is planning to do, but He does, and through prayer we enter into His will so that we can praise Him as that will unfolds over time.

Being devoted to prayer means being persistent to continue to pray about a matter over however long we might need to wait for the Lord’s answer.  I recall reading that George Mueller, who was a great man of prayer, petitioned the Lord concerning the salvation of some of three of his friends for well over 20 years. All did eventually become Christians, with one of them repenting after Mueller’s death.

Paul also states we are to keep “alert’ in prayer “with thanksgiving.”  To be alert is “to be watchful, vigilant in prayer.”   It comes from a word (grhgorevw / grgoreô) which has a root meaning of “being awake.”  So, don’t be like Jesus’ disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane who kept falling asleep.  The spirit may be willing, but the body gets tired, so set aside time to pray when you will not be as prone to fall asleep.  Do whatever you may need to do so that you can be alert in prayer.  I find it is helpful to pray out loud and not to sit in a comfortable chair otherwise I may interrupt my effort to pray silently with snoring – which even charismatics will deny is a prayer language.

Thanksgiving describes

The proper attitude of prayer.  

Thankfulness requires us

To be humble and recognize

Our dependence on God.

Every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of lights (James 1:17).  We must learn to see life through God’s eternal perspective.  We must set aside our natural selfishness which would quickly result in demanding from God and being disappointed or even angry when we did not get from Him what we wanted – an all too common response of non-Christians and immature believers.

Note that praying  and thanksgiving go hand-in-hand.  They go together.  There is no meaningful prayer apart from thanksgiving – and thanksgiving itself inspires us to talk to God, to thank Him for what He has done.

Paul states that Christians are to continue “earnestly” in prayer, “being vigilant” in it.  This is a call for consistency and urgency.  Someone has said, “the easiest thing about praying is quitting.”  Many of us, when we come to passages like this, begin to feel guilt and shame because we feel we do not pray enough.  Of course, prayer is given for our good.  We must remember that our Lord said to the disciples in Matthew 26:41, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (cf Mark 14:38; Luke 22:40, 46).”

So, one of the benefits of prayer is that we avoid falling into temptation.   And there are other benefits, like just the whole idea of spending time with the Father!  Spending time in communion with the One, True God!

I love when I make time for prayer.  I really do.  I have to make time, to be sure, but I love when I do!  I love when I make time for prayer because I feel and sense the Father’s presence when I pray to Him.

This is one answer to the question, “Why pray if God knows what we need before we speak?”  Sometimes even Christians ask this.  “What’s the point of praying if God already knows what we’re going to say?”  Well, first of all, God loves to be asked!  Proverbs 15:8 says, “The prayer of the upright is His delight.”  He loves to hear His children talk to Him.  

But again, what about our experience in prayer?  Prayer is a two-way communal time of sharing.  We are in His presence.  We fellowship with Him in prayer.  This to me is the most important aspect of Grateful Praying: The presence of God.  

Communing in God’s presence also helps us to think about so-called “unanswered prayer.”  Why does God seem unwilling to answer every prayer?  Steadfast endurance in coming again and again to the throne of grace is God’s way of cultivating in us a sense of absolute and utter dependence upon Him.  We are by nature self-reliant, self-sufficient folk.  If God were instantly and at all times to answer our every prayer we would gradually lose our sense of urgency.  Truth be told, most of us would soon lose sight of the fact that it is God alone who is the source of all good.  By suspending His response, God is saying to each of us: Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; Grateful praying.  And Paul tells the Colossian Christians specifically how they can pray for him.  He writes: “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” (verses 3-4).

Paul is saying, “Pray for us, pray for me, pray that God would give us receptive hearts – an open door to share the Word of God, to share the Gospel,” which Paul refers to as, “the mystery of Christ,” the unveiling, disclosing of the glorious plan of God to save sinners through Jesus Christ.

Paul says in verse 4, “Pray that I will make it manifest – or make it clear – as I ought to speak.”  In other words, “Pray that I say the right thing when I share the Gospel.”  It is always wise to ask someone to pray for you specifically when you are sharing the Gospel!  Call or text a friend something like: “Hey, pray for me at 3:30. I’m going to be speaking to John about Jesus Christ.  Pray, ‘that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.’”

This brings us to the next action: Gospel Sharing.  We’ll talk more about that in the next post.  For now . . .

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

 

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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