And When You Pray
Text: Colossians 4
Proposition: Prayer as a believer in Christ it is a reaction to the world and to the evidence of God as the Sovereign ruler over it all.
Introduction: I’ve got a riddle for you this morning, ‘What is it God never sees, what the king seldom sees, and what we see every day? The answer …An equal.
Riddles are sayings that on the surface don’t seem to be able to be true and yet as you work through them the truth is there but not in the way you expected it to be. I think that many people view prayer like a riddle. It seems like a paradox to pray requests to a God who is so sovereign He can and will do what He desires. It can seem that our prayers are presented again and again and yet to no effect. What about you, does prayer sometimes seem like an enigma, an unsolvable puzzle that has the cumulative effect upon you of not valuing prayer or not wanting to pray? What if there is way more to prayer than we ever realized, what if prayer is the way that God changes the world, the way that God changes us? Oswald Chambers once said, “Prayer is the vital breath of the Christian; not the thing that makes him alive, but the evidence that he is alive.” We’re getting to the end of the book of Colossians and in this last chapter Paul makes some references to prayer that he believes are vital reminders to a church that was gasping for breath. Turn with me to Colossians 4.
I. And When You Pray, Be An Adherent.
Pretty much everyone has heard of or used a product called Duck Tape. It was originally developed from an adhesive applied to the back of a plain duck cotton cloth and the uses for it were endless. In 1902 duck tape was used to wrap the cables supporting the Brooklyn Bridge, in 1910 it was used to make the insole of shoes, in 1936 it was used to wrap and insulate power cables, during world war II Johnson and Johnson developed a duck tape to seal the boxes containing ammunition because the tape not only kept the water out but soldiers could easily rip it open to get at the ammunition quickly. So what’s the point about duck tape? It’s simple, you like duck tape because it sticks and stays on. In short it adheres. That’s the sense of the word that Paul chose to use when he wrote, “In prayer continue…”. To continue means to earnestly adhere, persevere through all kinds of things. Prayer is like your voice, you use your voice for all kinds of different purposes. If you’re in trouble or being attacked you use your voice for defense and help. If you are an educator you use your voice to reach others. If you are a singer you use your voice for joy, for deep questions, for worship. If you are a parent you use your voice to express love, God has given you a voice to use in this world and you use in so many ways you hardly realize it. Prayer is also your voice, it’s the way you speak to God for all the same kinds of reasons, from getting certain needs met to expressing your love of Christ. The point is simply ‘continue earnestly, adhere perseveringly, stick like duck tape in prayer’. Proverbs 15:29 says, “The LORD is far from the wicked but He hears the prayer of the righteous.” Psalm 102:17 says, “He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer.” We hear that but why is it so important to adhere in prayer, to earnestly continue in it? We know Jesus condemned the long prayers of the Pharisees because it was all for show and their hearts weren’t in it (Matt 23:14). Yet we also know that He would go and pray all night to the Father(Lk 6:12). So persevering in prayer, continuing earnestly in prayer is important to God. In Luke 18:1 Jesus used a story about prayer to illustrate the importance of this quality of prayer, it was the story about a widow who had been abused and who then came and earnestly appealed to an unjust judge. The judge eventually gives in not because of belief in God nor because he cares about her at all. It is simply so that she will quit bothering him. It’s an example of opposite extremes, if the unjust judge will listen and respond how much more will the Judge who is Holy above all and Who cares deeply for you. Then Jesus adds this brief comment to the parable, “I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” Is our adherence in prayer more a matter of the expression of our faith than it is a matter of bothering the judge so that he will act? Your earnest ‘duck tape’ prayer is effective, it evidences the breath of life of Christ in you, it fuels your faith and it wins the day in Christ.
II. And When You Pray, Be a Gregory.
In verse 2 Paul tells the Colossians to. “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it…”. That word ‘vigilant’, some translations say ‘being watchful’or ‘alert’, comes from the Greek word, ‘grēgoreō’. The early church valued this so much that it became a common name that they gave their children, ‘Gregory’, to be alert, to be watchful. Do you remember the caution that Jesus gave to the disciples in Gethsemane just before His arrest and humiliation and death, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” To be a Gregory is realize that my flesh is slow to see and be motivated to watch over a number of things that are very, very important to God. William Hendriksen in his commentary lists four areas where we need to be alert: 1. We need to be alert to our needs and the needs of the family, church and country and bring those to the Father in Jesus name; 2. We need to be aware of the dangers to the Christian community and pray those to the Father; 3. We need to recognize both the blessings and promises of God and speak to the Father about them and not forget them; 4. We need to pray that we would know the will of God in whatever it is we face. You might be questioning whether you could ever really know the will of God but think of it like when you were a child trying to know the will of your parents. There were certain obvious things that you knew to be their will and really didn’t need much exploration, don’t steal, don’t lie, be obedient, these were the revealed will of your fathers and mothers. Then were the more specific and harder to discern aspects of their will, what time to be home, what groceries to pick up at the store, what to wear, these were more like a will that needed to be learned and discerned on a daily basis. God’s will is like that too, some things you don’t even need to ask about, some things you need to enquire about and even ask those around you regarding them as they too have had to work it out. The point is simply, when you pray be alert, be watchful, be a Gregory because your human nature infused with a desire towards sin will seek to minimize these things and be sleepy towards their importance. So, when you pray, be a Gregory, keep alert.
III. And When You Pray, Be Eucharistos.
That word ‘Eucharistos’ is translated, thankful, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.” It is the root word from which we get the English word, Eucharist, the term that refers to the bread and the cup in Communion. These are the symbols that remind us of the One to whom we are thankful, the one from Whom we receive forgiveness, the from Whom we benefit. Paul lists a number of things to be thankful about, things like the way God opens doors to reach people, like the way the Holy Spirit gives you the words to explain the mystery of Christ. Paul gives thanks because he knows it’s not all about our circumstance, where we are at the moment. In fact the difficulty of the moment can be intended, appointed to us by God for the unique purposes He has. To be thankful isn’t just about receiving something it’s about depending on God for everything. We give thanks before we receive, that’s such a contrast to the natural way where to say ‘thank you’ to a person before they give you something is seen as presumptuous. Not so with God, He sees that as a faith that chooses to depend on Him. Then again being thankful in prayer is all about what we have already received, especially when we consider the way our greatest need has been met in Christ. In Jesus we have been given a gift that has so much grace wrapped around Him that the beauty of it overwhelms our reasoning... surely I must pay for it in some way, surely I must deserve it in some way. Yet the clear answer is that grace, Jesus and the life, the saving life given to terminal sin infected man, is given to us as a gift. Does the free nature of the gift mean the value of the gift is small or even cheap? No, it moves in the other direction, the value of the gift is so great it cannot be compared to anything you might value on the face of the earth. It has higher value even than the love you have for children if you could ever imagine that. This gift of Christ is how you can be used to impart that very saving life to your children. We are thankful that this world, this life is not all there is, it enables us to open our hand rather tightening the grip as if the world is all there ever will be.
So when you pray, Adhere. When you pray, be a Gregory, keep alert and when you pray be Eucharistos, be thankful for what Christ has done and is doing and will do.