A friend sent me an e-mail asking me to pray for him and his wife as they prepare to work at a youth camp in a couple of weeks. I hesitated before responding. Not because I don’t think they need prayer . . . but because I do . . . and I didn’t want to commit to something that I wasn’t sure I could fulfill. Way to easy for me to say, “I’ll pray” . . . and then don’t. Not that I’m not being sincere with my desire to lift up someone’s request before the throne, but that I can so easily forget . . . it’s one of those “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” things. Way too easy to add an item to the end of my list and rattle off a few words before saying, “In Jesus Name, amen” rather than actually mediating for someone . . . rather than asking the Spirit to provide the intercession that I seem so feeble at (Rom. 8:26-27) . . . rather than believing that “going into my closet” and petitioning the God who “sees in secret” will make a difference (Matt. 6:6) . . . rather than, as Paul reminds me this morning, watching with my eyes closed.
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
. (Colossians 4:2 ESV)
Paul wraps up his letter to the believers at Colosse with three pointed exhortations . . . continue in prayer . . . walk in wisdom . . . be gracious in speech. It’s the first one that really grabbed me this morning. Maybe because, while I may not always be too wise, I can walk pretty good . . . and, although sometimes it lacks some “grace seasoning,” I can talk pretty good . . . but pray, that can be a struggle for me.
I know some say that, for the Christian, praying should be like breathing . . . if that’s true then sometimes I feel like I have asthma . . . I’m so often short of breath . . . struggling to maintain a regular breathing pattern. But this morning I’m reminded to “continue steadfastly” . . . to “devote” myself (NIV) . . . to “continue earnestly” (NKJV) . . . to “pray diligently” (MSG). And so, even though sometimes I think I need a spiritual ventilator (is that the Holy Spirit?), I try to keep on keepin’ on in prayer.
But beyond persevering in prayer, I’m also told to be “watchful in it.” The NKJV says I’m to be “vigilant” . . . the NASB says I’m to be “alert.”
As I pray for my friend, far from it being an auto-pilot activity, my head should be in the game. When talking with the God of heaven I should be aware that . . . well, that I’m talking with the God heaven. As I bring my petitions on behalf of others before His throne I need to be give attention to what I’m asking for and why . . . I need to be mindful that the battle isn’t with flesh and blood . . . I need to be awake to the reality of what’s at stake. As I close my eyes to pray . . . I need to be watchful in it.
Paul also reminds me that I need to guard against just “placing an order” and asking God to fill it. Instead I need to always be mindful of the privilege of boldly approaching the throne of grace to find help in time of need (Heb. 4:16) and, as such, be thankful. To be able to bow before His footstool and bring before Him needs, petitions, and intercessions is grace overflowing in and of itself . . . and I need to be full of gratitude for such access.
I replied to my friend that I would pray him as he gets ready for camp and would continue through the week he and his wife are at camp. Not that I’m a “prayer warrior” or anything . . . not that I hold any great influence in heaven . . . but that I pray to a great God . . . that I petition a Mighty Sovereign . . . that I close my eyes and bow my head before a Gracious King.
O’, that by His grace I would be vigilant . . . that through His Spirit I’d be engaged and alert . . . that for His glory I would be watching with my eyes closed.