How to Pray and What to Say

SCC 5/20/12 Colossians 4:2-4



††††††††††† All of my life I have had questions about prayer. I have been around prayer and praying people since a young Christian. One of my favorite passages to preach on were the prayers of Elijah in 1 Kings. So when I was deciding what subject to write on for my Masters Thesis, I chose An Exegetical and Theological Study of the Prayer Life of Elijah. I have collected numerous volumes of books, some old and out of print and many contemporary ones in my library. Prayers and references to prayer appear in 62 books of the Bible (S of S, Obadiah, Haggai, 2 John). The OT contains more information about prayer; the NT stresses importance of praying. The two Bible characters who said most about prayer were Jesus Christ and Paul. No verse in the Bible gives us a definition of prayer. We can discover what prayer is by examining the prayers in the Bible. Prayer is talking to God while He is not visibly manifested to us. There is no indication of animals praying and angelís speech to God was never called prayer. Prayer is specifically described by our words to God. His words to us are something other than prayer. They are revelation, answers, and response. So what priority should we place on prayer in our lives? What place should it play and how? In Colossians 4:2-4 we find our answer.



††††††††††† The message begins with a command to be devoted to prayer. The idea is to persist, to continue in prayer. That means that prayer is not just some luxury we have as believers. The very nature of prayer makes it essential to the effectiveness and maturity of the Christian faith. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 commands us to pray without ceasing. In other words prayer, as vital to the Christian life as breathing is to the human, must be a lifestyle for us.


††††††††††† In Colossians 1:9-10 (read) Paul reveals that this is something that he and his colleagues were engaged in constantly. In Colossians 4:12 (read) he points out further that Epaphras was wrestling in prayer for the spiritual development and growth of the Colossian believers. This idea is also spelled out in other places. For instance, in Acts 1:14 the early church was preparing for the coming of the Spirit all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer. In Acts 2:42 we learn that the early church believers were continually devoting themselves to the apostleís teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. In Acts 6:3-4 the apostles told the church to select seven men of good reputation full of the Spirit and of wisdom who we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word.


††††††††††† In Romans 12:12 it commands, be devoted to prayer. So prayer requires constant attention and complete dedication if we are going to be devoted to it. Further, in Ephesians 6:18 it says, pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere. Even Jesus told us not to lose heart but at all times we ought to pray Luke 18:1.


††††††††††† So prayer is not to be occasional but continual. How you do that is by constantly referring lifeís input to God, your thinking process becomes prayer. Your thoughts, victories, discouragements, hopes, decisions, and defeats, are to take form in prayer to God. Everything is prayed over and prayed about. Devote in the present verse is a command in the calling for continual devotion to prayer. One thing is crystal clear from this passage and that is that it is God's will that we pray to Him. We all struggle to know the will of God for our lives, but there are some things that you do not have to struggle to know. One of them is that God's will is that you pray to him. Paul is exhorting the Colossian saints (and us) to pray often and regularly. He is saying that prayer is not to be infrequent, "hit or miss". Devoted means we are not to be haphazard and forgetful of prayer. Devoted means that we must take steps to ensure that prayer with thanksgiving is a central part of our spiritual life.



††††††††††† This is how we are to be devoted to praying. It is keeping alert to the challenge we face when we do pray. It is concentration. So in addition to calling for devotion to prayer we are also to be vigilant in it and that means to be watchful, on guard, and stay spiritually awake against any spiritual drowsiness caused by a preoccupation with the worlds allurements (1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 Corinthians 16:13) or by the wiles of the devil (Eph 6:16). Keep watching and praying are both present tense (calling for continuous action) imperatives (commands) indicating that the need for spiritual vigilance and readiness to pray is not an occasional occurrence but is to be our habit and lifestyle.


††††††††††† So those who are devoted to prayer are those who are constantly on the alert about their lives, in tune with the will of God in scripture and recognize their accountability to God in this matter. The more aware you are of your dependence upon God the more attention prayer will have in your life. The question is this, is my need total or only partial? Therein lies the challenge we face in devoting ourselves vigilantly to prayer. How I answer that question makes all of the difference in how I apply prayer in my life. The reality is that we totally dependent upon the Lord for everything. In the present context vigilant conveys the demand for morally and spiritually wakeful activity, being alert against the assaults of temptations to sin and the lust of the flesh. In Gethsemane, Jesus was deeply grieved to the point of death when he found the disciples sleeping.



††††††††††† Giving thanks to God in prayer guides and restrains our prayer. You can easily make prayer a time of murmuring and complaining to God. Thank Him in everything not only during times when you feel all is well. In Col 1:10-12; 2:7; 3:15 & 17 it says that giving of thanks to God is our responsibility.

Hebrews 13:15 we are to offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name. Thanksgiving becomes a sacrifice when, in the midst of your hurts and disappointments, you affirm Godís goodness to you. We delight the heart of God when we donít feel grateful and yet thank Him. To believe that pain comes from our loving father and to give Him thanks for it reflects the kind of faith that pleases Him. Giving the Lord thanks in the midst of pain you then affirm His goodness. So he calls it the sacrifice of praise and a sacrifice costs, else it is not sacrificial.


††††††††††† Content that we cannot answer the question why; we rest in Godís character knowing that all of His designs for us are good. Ingratitude is a sure indicator that a person is dissatisfied with the life God gave them. People like this are described by Paul this way; neither were they thankful but became vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart was darkened. Iniquity flows from a thankless heart. As you approach the Throne of Grace, donít think in terms of what you want, but what best serves the interests of God. Your best will always flow from this. In your own life donít look to your standard of living but to your gratitude to determine whether or not you are dissatisfied. Your praying must be accompanied by thanksgiving to God.



(1) Ask God for what you want. But agree with God that if He does not want you to have it, you do not want Him to give it to you. Be content when He says Ďnoí. Your Father will never become angry with you for asking for too much, provided you agree with Him before the fact that you want Him to say Ďnoí to you if it is not in your bet interests.

(2) You can easily deceive your self into believing that if God gives you what you want you are blessed. It may be that he is tired of your whining and does for you what he did for Hezekiah. Hezekiah begged God to extend his life and reign giving him 15 more years. Years in which he sired the most wicked kings in Israelís history, Manasseh, exposed the wealth of the nation to Babylon, setting the stage for Israelís ultimate destruction.