Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Continuing in Prayer, Part 1: Watchful Thankfulness

Continuing in Prayer, Part 1: Watchful Thankfulness

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2 (ESV)

What do you think? Does the Bible teach that Christians should pray a certain amount of time each day, or a specific time of the day? Does "continue steadfastly" mean lots of prayer, or does it mean heartfelt prayer?

Paul urges the Christians in Colossae to pray, but not simply pray. He says they should continue steadfastly in prayer. What did he mean?

Continue steadfastly: proskartereo (to persevere, be constantly diligent, adhere closely to), from "forward to" and "be strong".

Being watchful: gregoreo (to keep awake, to watch), related to ageiro (to gather), as in collecting one's faculties.

With thanksgiving: eucharistia (gratitude, grateful language), from "good" and "favor".

Paul defines steadfast prayer as being watchful and thankful in prayer. He connects these definitions with the words in and with, which are actually the same Greek word, translated into two different English words.

"In" and "with" are from the same Greek word: en (a fixed position, implying instrumentality or rest).

The New Testament uses at least three Greek words of position:

eis (to or into)
en (fixed position or rest)
ek (from or out)

In this verse Paul uses the middle word, en (fixed position). Watchfulness and thanksgiving do not lead to prayer, nor do they result in prayer, but rather they rest in prayer.

The prayer that Paul desires is prayer that is permeated with the attitudes of watchfulness and thanksgiving. The attitudes do not cause the prayer, but the prayer is weak without the attitudes of watchfulness and thanksgiving.

Continuing steadfastly means prayer that is strong, always looking forward to Jesus, rather than backward to our own weak capabilities or situations.

And this brings us full circle back to Paul's original exhortation:

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17 (ESV)

Watchfulness motivates us to constantly compare our actions and and desires with those found in Jesus.

Thankfulness motivates us to constantly depend upon God's creation, calling, knowledge, adoption, justification, and glorification:

We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Romans 8:28-30 (ESV)

It is all of God. God awakens our heart and mind and reveals all that He has done and all that He has provided on our behalf. Watchfulness and thankfulness support a strong, forward-looking dependence upon God.

What do you think? If you were to follow a watchful, thankful Christian all day long, what would you see? What would you hear?