The other day, I was thankful for hearing about how the Lord answered my groaning prayer. The next morning I thanked Him for what I could see Him already doing in the lives of those I love. I know there’s more to be done, but my hope is in Him who can do anything as long as we ask Him to intervene. I was drawn to a Scripture, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (Col 4:2).
Paul tells that we are to be in constant and loyal prayer. God doesn’t intend for prayer to be an event taking place only at certain times. It is meant to be an ongoing dialogue with the Lord. In another epistle he says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess 5:16-18)
I’m a list maker, and I love to check things off my list. The Lord knows that about me, so He took me these Scriptures to remind me that I’m not to check off this situation from my list but to “continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving”.
Paul mentions two important aspects of prayer. First, believers are to be “vigilant” or watchful in prayer. This is the idea of standing guard, or staying awake at night to make sure a location is safe. Prayer demands ongoing attention, just like the guard at a city gate. In practical terms, this means prayer is not supposed to be a careless, casual, or frivolous act. We should pray with specific purpose and with deliberate intent. Paul ends his discourse on the armor of God which we are to wear, with how to apply the armor–prayer! “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Eph 6:18). Since the battle begins in the spiritual realm, if we want to be victorious we must call heaven down to earth.
Second, prayer should be thankful. Because we base our prayers in our faith in God’s Word, His promises and His character, we thank Him for what He has promised to do as if it is already done. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7) In our thanksgiving, He gives us His peace to guard our hearts and minds in Jesus. Standing firm in His Word, we have a peace even in chaos that protects us from enemy.
A major benefit of prayer is aligning our will with God’s will, which leads to greater understanding and to a greater sense of gratitude. It’s how Jesus modeled our prayer, beginning with “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:9-10). We come before Him humbling ourselves, recognizing His Supremacy, and asking for our will to align with His. God’s will is for His gospel to be shared, so Paul requests prayers not for his release from prison, but for opportunities to share the gospel so that it would be understood (Col 4:3-4).
We’ve been told that we are to pray privately in God’s will earnestly, vigilantly, with thanksgiving, and asking for opportunities for His Word to be shared. He then encourages us to be a godly witness for Jesus Christ. “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Col 4:5-6) My walk must match my talk!
Honestly, it doesn’t always. But we are encouraged to strive toward godly living. The only way I can do that is by abiding in Christ, and giving Him the room in my life for Him to abide in me by relinquishing my pride (John 14:20). “The Holy Scriptures…are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:15-17)
In my earnest and vigilant prayer, I must humbly ask the Lord to show me that which I need to repent so that I am able to walk in His wisdom. I can’t do it on my own; I must admit to Him that I am powerless to walk as Christ walked without Him guiding me through each moment of the day, while He corrects my sin, which I can’t cheapen and call them “mistakes”. I must agree with Him when I sin so that He can equip me for every good thing He has planned for me. I’ve discovered when I pray specifically for something in others that I see hurts them, He shows me what is within me that is hurting my testimony for Him. “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Col 2:6).
I am to “walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time”. To walk with wisdom towards outsiders means that I am to live in line with God’s Word so that those who are not Christians will see the beauty of Christ in my life and relationships. What I do and say must be consistent, over time, in order to clearly present the message of Jesus. That gives me a platform to tell others the good news that changed my life. A godly walk is the foundation for effective witness. Part of my godly walk is “redeeming the time” or making the most of opportunities God places before me. When God opens the door, I must walk through it.
Winsome words are the means of an effective witness. “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Our presentation of the gospel should be permeated with God’s grace, the message that He gives salvation as a free gift to sinners who deserve His judgment. My speech must be gracious, kind and humble, letting others know that we’re all sinners who would be on the way to hell, were it not for God’s gift of His abundant grace.
And my speech must be “seasoned with salt”, implying it should be pure and free from corruption and condemnation (as a preservative) and tasty (spice) so that it stimulates others to want to know more. And I must know how I “ought to answer each one”. I’ve learned the best way is for me to share what I’ve learned–which is mostly to ask questions in studying God’s Word asking how the Lord wants me to apply it. That way, I’m sharing what the Lord has done in my life while sharing His Word, and I leave the rest to the Lord. My job isn’t to be someone else’s Holy Spirit–He does just fine on His own! The enemy seeks to disarm my testimony by appealing to my pride so that others can’t see a difference between me and Satan’s children. But when I abide in Christ and He in me, then I can “overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of [my] testimony” (Rev 12:11).
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps 139:23-24) Lord, I need Your light to shine on my path so that I am able to walk in Christ, and to share Your love for everyone. Lord, thank You for Your reminder that I am to continue in earnest and vigilant prayer because You have given us free will and You require us to ask You to intervene here on earth. Lord, help me to season my speech with Your grace, and to walk in Your wisdom that You freely give. Lord, time is short, so I ask that You continue to remind me to make the most of every opportunity You place before me, so that Your kingdom will come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. I thank You for all that You are doing that I cannot see, and for those things I can. I thank You for Your faithfulness, love, grace and mercy. In the precious name of Jesus, amen.