Beginning in the third chapter of Colossians, Paul passes from the primarily doctrinal issues addressed in the first two chapters to the primarily practical. He concludes these practical instructions with this admonition: “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” (4:2). It would appear that he is saying, “It is not enough to know what to do, you must also have power to do it. And that power must be ignited and steered by prayer.” In this brief statement, Paul, through the Spirit of God, provides three truths concerning the praying that is essential for victorious Christian living.
Continue in prayer. The first necessity for a believer is that he must ever continue in prayer. The NASV translates the clause effectively thus: “Devote yourselves to prayer.” The moment the foot leaves the accelerator, the engine starts to slow down. Depending on the condition and quality of the vehicle and the type of road conditions, it may take some time before the speed changes perceptibly. But inevitably, an engine running with no foot on the accelerator will stop. Prayer is the accelerator of the Christian engine. The Christian who is not in constant prayer will soon stall out. Power to do God’s will does not come automatically. It is delivered as the believer tarries in the Word and devotes himself to prayer. Perhaps it is for this reason that it is the good times that tend to destroy believers. They grow comfortable, then careless of prayer, then cold, and finally dead. Similarly, it is often the “little things” that cause the most damage in believers’ lives. They recognize the need to pray about “big things,” but they feel they can handle the little things. Consequently, they neglect prayer and the power of God that derives from constant fellowship with Him. There is no substitute for heeding the admonition to “Pray without ceasing:” (I Thes. 5:17). Believers must be devoted to praying.
Watch in prayer. The need to be watchful is as all-encompassing as is the need to continue in prayer. W. R. Nicholson suggested that believers need to be watchful before, during, and after prayer. A believer must be watchful before prayer in order to be alert to any and every occasion requiring prayer. The unattentive strike out on their own without the direction and power that prayer provides and wander off into sin. The watchful saint does not rely on his own understanding or experience, but he sees every situation as one he should bring to his Lord. A believer must also be watchful during prayer. He must guard his heart against selfish, egocentric prayers. He must “pray in the Spirit.” He must pray in accord with the Word of God. He must pray in the name of Jesus. He must pray for God’s will and God’s glory. All of these require conscious, deliberate watchfulness against the desires and weaknesses of the flesh. Finally, a believer must be watchful after prayer. He must believe God and, thus, look for and expect God to answer His prayers. He must watch so that he can react properly, and he must watch so that he can rejoice properly. Many people who pray ultimately fail because they fail to watch for and wait on the answer from the Lord.
Watch with thanksgiving. Sometimes the answer is long in coming. The believer is still to bring his thanks to God. Sometimes the answer is not what the believer wanted. Still he is to be thankful. How is it possible to be thankful in such circumstances? It is possible if the believer truly knows that the Lord does all things well, that His ways are best, and that what He does is right and will result in his ultimate blessing. Thanksgiving is the testimony of a praying, believing heart that God answers prayer and that He does so in accord with His holy will for the believer’s blessing and God’s ultimate glory.
That the subject of praying is as described above (i.e., primarily about the state and circumstances of the one who is doing the praying) is underlined by the fact that in the next verse, Paul asks his readers to pray also for him and his fellow ministers. Such prayer about oneself is not selfish. It is essential. Praying for others is futile unless the believer has a proper prayer life regarding the state of his own heart, soul, and will. Yet, as the believer gives prayerful attention to his own spiritual state, the Lord will empower him to “continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” more and more so that the focus of his prayers will be increasingly upon the blessing of others and the glory of God.
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