Action Commandments for Every Believer Day 2- Devote Yourself to Prayer
Devote yourselves to prayer. Be alert and thankful when you pray. (Colossians 4:2, ISV)
Ava, my middle child, amazes me. All three of my daughters amaze me, of course, but I can’t help but think of her when I wrap my mind around this topic. Ava is our dancer—you know, the competitive dancer who can do all sorts of things that I can’t even imagine doing. From aerials to front aerials to cavaliers, attitude leaps, and so on, she dazzles me. Yes, I know what all of those are—dance dad and proud of it! Dance is something she loves doing and, man, is she ever devoted to it! Much of the day at home this summer has been spent spinning on her turning shoes, stretching, leaping, flipping, and, well, dancing. Her devotion and determination have helped hone her craft, and her growth has been quite evident. Expect to hear my full-throated shouts of encouragement at every competition next year!
Hopefully you get the point I’m trying to make. If Ava stopped practicing for a month, we would see the results. The more devoted we are to something, the more natural it comes to us; it can become almost automatic. This is how prayer should be in the life of a Christian. When I have a problem, prayer should be my first recourse (not my last resort). When I’m stressed, I should pray. When I’m sad, I should pray. When I am disappointed in myself, I should pray. When I’m happy, I should pray. There is never a wrong time to pray! It should be far more normal and natural for me than it actually is, sadly. I need to follow Paul’s command and be devoted to prayer. After all, prayer is how I talk to God. Why shouldn’t I be more interested in talking to the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-understanding God of the universe!
This command to pray comes with two additional commands when we do pray. We should be alert, and we should be thankful. In this context, what does it mean to be alert when I pray? Surely it goes beyond the practical; you wouldn’t pray with your eyes closed for 30 minutes on the highway driving 70 mph! You would be alert to oncoming vehicles while you were praying behind the wheel. But this goes beyond that. Maybe it means a couple of things. First, it probably points out that our minds should be alert when we pray. It would be tough to say I was devoted to it if I were just going through the motions. I can be guilty of that, for sure. Often, I pray because I know it’s my usual prayer time, and I can lazily go through the list of what I typically pray for. I pray on my morning walk through our neighborhood, but how quickly I can be distracted by a cute bunny hopping across the street in front of me. Our minds should be alert to what we are saying; again, we’re conversing with God! But we should also be alert to the motive behind our prayer. Why am I praying for something or someone? Is it out of love or care for them, or just to make my life easier? It’s something to watch for in our lives. All too often, my prayers are “me-based.”
The other aspect is that I should be thankful when I pray. God has answered so many of my prayers that I can’t even count them. Did I thank Him when He did? I have been blessed with an incredible wife, three amazing daughters, a wonderful family, a supportive church family, a great job, countless friends, and even these are all secondary gifts. God gave His Son for me; He forgave me; He saved me from hell; He gave me eternal life. How often do I thank God for what I have been given? James wrote, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). My prayer life needs to reflect that I believe it.
As we pray—being alert and thankful—let us remember how much we need God. As Matt Maher wrote and sang,
“Lord, I need You, oh I need You,
Every hour, I need You;
My one defense, my righteousness,
Oh God, how I need You.”