Colossians 4 (NLT)
“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. 3 Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. 4 Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.
5 Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive (Greek – seasoned with salt) so that you will have the right response for everyone.”
The first verse smacks me ‘upside the head’ – “pray with an alert mind”. I don’t know about you, but I find prayer difficult. I will begin to pray and then dozens of thoughts about my day (what to make for supper, appointments that week, need to call someone, do I need to buy new pillows for my couch – all scattered irrelevant thoughts) flood my mind. I can pray about things during my day as they come to mind, and that is fine. To be conscious of God’s presence throughout our day is good. But I struggle to find time to pray in a serious thoughtful way. Paul tells us to pray “with an alert mind and a thankful heart”.
When do I have an alert mind? If we stopped and thought about it, we could probably find a time of day when we know we are wide awake. Some of us are morning persons and some are night hawks. We need to be aware of when we are alert and figure out a time for prayer. Paul also encourages us to pray with a thankful heart. Start prayer by thanking God for any small thing (or big thing) that has happened in the past couple of days. I really think praise helps our minds to focus.
Charles Swindoll writes about these verses and says that we should determine to improve our prayer life but not get too strict with our expectations. Instead, determine to pray more this week. Next week, ask ourselves if we met that expectation, and if not, determine to make it better. If we improve a little over a month, that is good. He feels people sometimes set their expectations too high and then quit because they fail. Look instead for a gradual improvement. That sounds like good advice to me, and if you struggle with prayer, try that approach.
Then Paul tells us to “live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive (Greek – seasoned with salt) so that you will have the right response for everyone.” There is another wise instruction. Do non- Christians find us fun to talk with? Do they enjoy being with us? Do they find us to be kind, humble, gentle, patient, understanding and forgiving, loving and peaceful people? (Remember Colossians 3?) How can we share our faith with non-Christians if they see judgmental and isolated neighbours or co-workers? People who are just too religious?
One thing I do love about the Bible – and also dislike – is its honesty and the challenge it brings to my life. I am so thankful when I read about how much God loves me. And I’m so thankful when I read about what God wants from me; at least I have great advice on how to live well. I’m not always thankful when the Holy Spirit takes those words and challenges me ‘to smarten up’. But as I read verses like the ones we read today, I am thankful that God does challenge me in his loving way. His Holy Spirit helps me as I struggle to pray and live well.
“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings’ that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8: 26 – 28 NLT)
Isn’t that wonderful?!