August 1, 2012

The work and focus of prayer

Prayer is my work and my only strength. But prayer is also my greatest battle, and not praying, for whatever reason, is my biggest temptation. 
Praying teaches me about God and His will. From His responses, I understand what He desires. Sometimes He says yes and I rejoice. Sometimes He says no, but I have learned to persist. He may show me the reason for withholding the answer. If the request was selfish or not part of His plan, then I can stop asking. 

Sometimes He wants me to patiently persevere for that godly characteristic in His child takes priority over whatever I am asking.

Today’s devotional verse offers some of the most important lessons I’ve learned about prayer.
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. (Colossians 4:2–4)
Steadfast. Keep at it. Don’t give up. I am not trying to persuade God when I pray according to His will, but am fighting a spiritual enemy who does not want me to ask God for anything, especially for light to shine on his lies and darkness so people are released from his grip.

Watchful. Pay attention. God may answer my prayers in ways that I do not expect. If I am not paying attention, I could miss whatever He is doing.

Thankful. Saying thanks acknowledges the Lord as the source of all good things. When I refuse to be thankful, I am complaining that God does not know what He is doing. If I do that, I could be blocking answers to my prayers. He will change my attitude first, before He does what I ask of Him. 

Focused. I used to pray for whatever I thought was not right in the world, particularly in my part of it. Now I understand that most of the prayers in the New Testament are for other Christians, and for our boldness and clarity in declaring the gospel. Everything else is temporal.

Jesus died for our sin, was buried, and rose again the third day. He offers forgiveness of sin and new life to all who believe in Him. Christians need to proclaim this truth. I need to proclaim it. Requests for a better job, a good marriage, health, enough money and so on might gain the ear of God, but those things are for this life only. Sharing the good news of salvation through faith is for eternal life. This needs to be the central focus of my prayers.

Lord God, as I go to prayer today, may I lift up to You the family of God and our need to have open doors to share the good news — with confidence and boldness, declaring it clearly and with great love and passion for You and the people You came to save.

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