December 24, 2012

Pray always about everything

The Bible says to pray about everything. It also says to pray without ceasing. This morning’s devotional reading takes me to another similar command…
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. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:2–6)

Persevere in prayer, be diligent about it. And if I don’t know what to pray for, the passage gives several clues. 

The first is to pray that Christians, myself included, will have opportunities to share the Gospel with others. We could go out there and just shout it at everyone, but people may not be ready or willing to listen. To them, our words are just noise, and sometimes very annoying. We need to pay careful attention to the Holy Spirit so we know when to open our mouths.

The second request is that we make it clear. Years ago, I attended training sessions where we were taught one way of explaining the Gospel. It was helpful in that this ‘script’ gave me confidence, but God showed me something I needed to learn. I used to think that a well-delivered message would convince anyone, but first time I used my practiced Gospel presentation, I mangled it, totally making a mess of the script. 

God, who gave the opportunity to speak, had a lesson for me. He opened the heart of the listener and much to my amazement, she became a Christian. This proved to me that while clarity is important, it is God who uses what we say as He sees fit. I cannot depend on “clear” words but on His Spirit. That “success” with my botching was a more powerful lesson than many “failures with clarity” would have been.

Another request from the above passage is that Christians, including me, walk in wisdom toward those who do not know Jesus. We are to use our time wisely, but especially the time we spend with them. That wisdom includes gracious speech that is also salty, making them thirsty for God and putting questions about spiritual matters in their hearts.

While all of this is helpful, prayer is still a mystery. Why does God answer some prayers almost as soon as they are uttered, but takes years before answering other requests? Why does God move in the hearts of some, but not others? Why are some Christians given many opportunities and wise words to say, but others not so much? Why do wise and careful words move some hearts, but not others? 

I don’t know the answers. However, God says I must pray, pray all the time and about everything. For me, that means having a sense of helplessness; otherwise I try to do things myself without asking Him. It means being patient regarding no answers. It means being compassionate towards those with hearts not yet made soft. It means learning to wait and listen. It also means learning to trust when I don’t understand.

God, prayer is an amazing privilege. I am amazed that You listen and respond to my requests. You have answered prayer this year, this week, even yesterday and I’m sure You will do the same today. Also, forgive the many times I pridefully thought I could ‘do it myself’ and didn’t pray. May I have a prayerful attitude all the time about everything — and never give up.

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