Prayer, Preaching, Perception

Colossians 4:2 ESV

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

Sometimes, when I have heard people talk about the need to “read your Bible and pray,” I have found that their perception of prayer is of a very specific time set apart each day for talking to God, oftentimes specifically for bringing their requests to God.

Sometimes, too, they feel that they must follow a certain formula. One of the popular formulas that has been in existence in my lifetime is spelled out in an acronym, ACTS – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.

Such things as these can be very helpful, especially for the new believer in Jesus Christ who is just getting started with prayer. But, the true Biblical concept of prayer, although this included specific times for prayer, too, is that prayer is to be continuous (ongoing) and steadfast (persistent, unwavering).

And, what this means is that we are always to be in an attitude of prayer so that at any time during the day we can talk with the Lord, and so we can hear from him, too, as he counsels us throughout the day. So, prayer is essentially about having a conversation with God, no formula required.

Prayer, as well, should not be thought of as a one-sided conversation. It is not just about us doing all the talking, but then we must listen, too, to the Lord’s side of the conversation. Our ears must always be open and attentive to hear him speak his truths to our hearts any time of the day, and in every situation, whether we are at work, or at home, or working at home.

There is another aspect of prayer that is essential, as well, and that is that we are watchful in prayer. And, what this means is that we are spiritually alert both to hear our Lord speak to us, but also to be on guard against the wiles of the devil, so that we do not fall into temptation.

Thus, it is essential that we be awake spiritually, following our Lord in obedience, in tune to his promptings and urgings, and ready to obey him at a moment’s notice. And, we must be fully equipped with the armor of God with which to fight off the enemy’s temptations and his evil schemes against us, too (Eph. 6:10-20).

And, we must be thankful in prayer, as well, even for the hard times in our lives, for God is using even the difficulties of our lives for our good in order to grow us in our faith, and to mature us in Christ, and to make us holy, and to prune us, and to conform us to the likeness of Christ.

Colossians 4:3-4 ESV

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.

I grew up in the 50s and 60s attending a very strong evangelical church of that time. Holiness was one of the major themes I heard preached on when I was growing up as a child, and as a youth, and into early adulthood.

Prayer was also a central focus of my early church experiences. But, as I grew in my walk with the Lord, I found that the prayer times at home and at church were lacking either in genuiness or in content, as the prayers at church gatherings seemed to all be focused around praying for the sick, for people to have jobs, or for the missionaries abroad.

At home, we had a canned prayer that we prayed at the dinner table, and that was it for family prayer. So, one day I suggested that we pray our own prayers, from our own hearts, and as far as I recall, my parents did accept my suggestion, unless I am remembering wrong.

What I found lacking in prayer meetings at church was prayer for spiritual needs. We could pray about someone’s cancer, or their sickness, or for an injury, but not about broken hearts, struggles with sin, and abuse issues and the like.

For, when Paul said he was in prison, it was because he was restrained because of his preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And, what this means is that he was being persecuted (abused, mistreated) because of his faith. And, some of us, too, are being mistreated because of our faith, not necessarily like people are in other nations, but it is still abuse, all the same.

And, some of this abuse today is hindering the spreading of the gospel of our salvation from getting out to people, not because we are literally in jail, and not because we are literally being beaten for our faith, but because of deception. For, there are many liars and deceivers out there who are opposing the truth of the gospel and they are convincing many people to believe their lies and to reject the truth.

So, we need to be praying for open doors for the truth of the gospel of our salvation to get out to people, and that we who are sharing that truth would proclaim it clearly so that there can be no question, no doubt as to what God’s word says on the subject of his plan of salvation for our lives, and with regard to what he requires of us who believe on him for that salvation.

Colossians 4:5-6 ESV

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.

Yet, when we speak, we need the wisdom of God in knowing both what to say and how best to say it. And, how best to say it is with the wisdom and counsel of God, not with the thinking and perceptions of human beings. For, our flesh can get in the way, and we may either be too harsh in what we say, with our own words, or we may be too soft, too, and not say what needs to be said for the true benefit of the listener.

So, we need the counsel and guidance of the Holy Spirit of God in our speech and in our writing, so that we are speaking what he knows needs to be said, and in the way in which Jesus would say it, if he still lived on this earth. For, he can see what we cannot see.

And, each situation we encounter with individual people is as individual as they are, and calls for very specific wisdom to know what they need to hear in their given situation, for there is not a formula that we can use for all people in all situations other than the purity of the gospel message, which does not change like shifting shadows.

Now, speaking with grace is saying what is for the benefit of others, i.e. it is considering what is best for them, to meet their legitimate needs. Grace, though, is not telling people what they want to hear, and what will make them feel good about themselves in their sins. Grace does not placate or entertain sin, nor does it lie to people or dilute the truth so as not to offend others. Grace always tells the truth, but it speaks the truth in love.

Regarding salt, from a spiritual perspective, since salt is used as a preservative to slow decay, salt is thus an element we add in our conversations with people to help preserve their lives from corruption and destruction; and from the evils of our society. “Salty” words should be pure (virtuous) and wholesome, and that which can be penetrating to the heart, as they should have God’s unique individual characteristic within them. In other words, they should reveal his divine character.

Salt creates a thirst, so the goal of our conversations with people (in speech or in writing) should be to create within them a thirst for God and for his word. Too much salt can ruin food, and too much salt can also ruin the effectiveness of our conversations. In the same respect, no salt or little salt can make spiritual food bland and tasteless, rendering it ineffective in penetrating to the heart and in preserving lives from sin’s deceitfulness.

So, our conversations with others, and especially our presentations of the gospel, must have both elements of God’s grace and his justice, speaking the truth in love to others so that they can be rescued from darkness and brought into God’s wonderful light, and so that they can see the error of their ways and turn to the Lord or back to him in full surrender and obedience.

Have Thine Own Way, Lord

Hymn lyrics by Adelaide A. Pollard, 1907
Music by George C. Stebbins, 1907

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me I pray!
Power, all power, surely is Thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine!

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway.
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!

*copyright status is public domain

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