We get busy with school or jobs or both, chores or recreation, dating or marriage, and so much more that we easily neglect prayer. Perhaps this is why Paul gives us the following admonition: Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. (Colossians 4:2) But what does this mean?
Devote. One definition of this word “devote” that resonates with me is to “give up or appropriate to or concentrate on a particular pursuit, occupation, purpose, cause.” This word “devote” packs quite a punch. There’s a lot to it. And just to make sure we understand what he means, Paul tells us to devote OURSELVES to PRAYER! He doesn’t say devote some time or resources to it. That would be like sending a little money to the mission field rather than being a missionary. Nothing wrong with sending money to help others, but when you send yourself you know you’re really serious about helping others. This is how important prayer is in our walk with God. It is so important than we are to devote our lives to prayer! It’s not enough to just send a prayer God’s way now and then. But what does a life devoted to prayer really look like? Paul gives the answer to this question in this one little verse.
Paul tells us that effective, life transforming prayer has two components. The first is an alert mind. We pray when our mind is engaged. So we can pray as we are reading His Word, meditation on His thoughts, allowing His truths to seep into our minds. But it’s more than this. When we devote ourselves to prayer, then we pray without ceasing. We then are alert to recognize when God is around us. We recognize Divine appointments and the devil’s snares. With an alert mind we avoid temptations and seek God’s path. But the companion to the mind is the heart. Without the heart, the mind can become fanatical and harsh.
And so we have the second aspect of prayer – a thankful heart. With a thankful heart I recognize the trials in my life as blessings. With a thankful heart I can see obstacles as opportunities. With a thankful heart my attitude is one of gratitude. With a thankful heart, I am given peace of mind and joy that can make every day the best day of my life. A thankful heart takes time to see the blessings in life and to give God the credit. So a thankful heart is always other-centered, not self-centered. Ultimately, a life devoted to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart will be a life filled with love, purpose, and joy.
What will you devote yourself to today? What would it look like to devote yourself to prayer?
I was 12 years old when I was first faced with the reality that there would be trials in life that transcended my ability to cope on my own. A young pastoral couple arrived at our church with the assignment of youth pastor. Their energy and enthusiasm infected the entire church within weeks. His sermons were alive, her songs were heavenly and their love for each other and the church was inspiring. In less than a year the church was changing because of their humility of service to God and the people in our church. And then one afternoon on a narrow Indiana country road they died in a horrific motor vehicle accident. A large eastbound truck collided with their small westbound VW ‘bug.” It appears our young pastoral couple had taken their eyes off the road as they both were looking for something on the floor of the car. There was no room for the truck to miss them.
There was a sense of hopelessness and what if in our church. I was grief stricken wondering how such a thing could have happened. They had so much promise, so much life ahead of them. They were impacting lives for God’s kingdom. If only they had kept their eyes on the road. If only they would have ignored the lost item they thought was on the floor of the car until they had made it safely to the church parking lot. If only…
As a result of this experience, I learned at a young age to lean hard into God in times of trial. I found God at my side giving me comfort through His Spirit and His people. Over the course of the days and weeks following the accident I realized that God does not promise to prevent tragedies, trials, and hardships from coming my way. Since that time I have been the target of temptation, the subject of gossip, the loser of battles, the object of anger, the witness of death, and the bystander in tragedy. I have chosen the wrong path at times, the right path at other times, God’s way and my way. But through it all I have discovered, as I did in the days following the death of our pastoral couple, that God is always with me. It was a difficult but valuable lesson to learn at such a young age. But it is this truth that I am most thankful for. The Psalmist says it like this in Psalm 124… 1 If it had not been the Lord who was on our side— let Israel now say— 2 if it had not been the Lord who was on our side when people rose up against us, 3 then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us; 4 then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us; 5 then over us would have gone the raging waters. 6 Blessed be the Lord, who has not given us as prey to their teeth! 7 We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped! 8 Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
During this Thanksgiving week, I am most thankful that I can say, If it had not been the Lord was was at my side, then I would not be here today. Thank you Father for loving me. Thank you Jesus for always accepting me and providing me with the victory I grasp daily. Thank you Holy Spirit for being with me to test me, guide me, and shield me every day.