WHAT ABOUT PRAYER?
The Priority of Prayer
Jerry A Collins
®What is prayer?
What role should prayer have in our lives?
What is the most important thing about prayer?
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. Our study of prayer will seek to stress what the Bible reveals about this subject. That will enable us to pray better and also motivate us to pray more. Prayers and references to prayer appear in 62 books of the Bible (SofS, Obadiah, Haggai, 2 John). The OT contains more information about prayer; the NT stresses importance of praying. The 2 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 angels 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, revelation, answers, 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.
1. DEVOTE YOURSELVES TO PRAYER VS 2
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 Paul reveals that this is something that he and his colleagues were engaged in constantly. In Colossians 4:12 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. 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 inn 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. HowĒ you do that by constantly referring lifeís inputs to God, your thinking process becomes prayer. Your thots, victories, discouragementís, hopes, decisions and defeats are all committed to God in prayer. Everything is prayer over and prayed about. One of the most amazing praying persons I know is Mano Daniel. His life is a constant prayer in India. That is the first time in my life I saw this command literally lived out in the life of a human being.
2. BE VIGILANT IN YOUR PRAYING VS 2
This is how we are to be devoted to praying. It is be keeping alert to The challenge we face when we do pray 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, stay spiritually awake against any spiritual drowsinesscaused by a preoccupation with the worlds allurements ( 1 Thess 5:6; 1 Cor 16:13) or by the wiles of the devil (Eph 6:16). 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 to devote 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. This is the reason why Mano Danielís prayer life is so diligent. The spiritual, political and economic environment of India is a tremendous motivation to dependence upon God in prayer.
3. YOUR PRAYERS SHOULD BE ACCOMPANIED WITH THANKSGIVING TO GOD VS 2
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 says that giving of thanks to God is our responsibility. For instance, in Heb 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 please Him. So he calls it the sacrifice of praise. 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 like this, neither were thankful but became vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart was darkened. Iniquity flows from a thankless heart. 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) Pray. Communicate messages to God.
(2) Pray constantly. make it a lifestyle.
(3) When you pray always express something you are thankful for.