YOUR BEST BATTLE WEAPON
Colossians 4:2, Luke 11:5-8 Princeton Christian Church 23 May 2021
Sometimes in our daily lives, we feel like we are in a battle. We battle against events in our lives dealing with health, children, finances, and dozens of other things, even including our prayer life. In Colossians 4, Paul provides believers with a three-point battle plan for a successful and satisfying prayer life.
There was a pastor who had a pet parrot. All the parrot would say was, “Let’s kiss. Let’s kiss.” The pastor tried to teach him to say other things but the parrot continued to only say, “Let’s kiss. He learned that one of the deacons had a parrot. The deacon’s parrot would only say, “Let’s pray, let’s pray.” So the pastor decided to invite the deacon and his parrot over to his house, hoping that his parrot could learn from the more spiritual parrot. When the deacon arrived they put the parrots into the same cage to see what would happen. The pastor’s parrot says, “Let’s kiss, let’s kiss.” And suddenly the deacon’s parrot shouts, “Thank you, Lord. My prayers have been answered.”
Now that is kinda silly story. But it demonstrates a truth. Prayer works!
It is sad to believe, but prayer has been on the decline in recent years. One report finds that a majority (55%) of Americans claim to pray at least once a day. But, at the same time, the share of adults who seldom or never pray has increased from 18% to 23% since 2007. At times, even those of us who try to make prayer a priority tend to struggle. We have good intentions when it comes to prayer. But we get busy and, and are distracted. And what happens? Our prayer-life falls by the wayside. Sometimes prayer is a last resort when all else fails. Wouldn’t you like to pray more? Better? Stronger? Deeper? With more fire, faith, and fervency?
There is no lack of need for prayer. But sometimes we don’t know how to pray specifically for specific needs. To be really effective in prayer, we need a plan. We might even say we need a strategy. So, we go to Colossians 4, where Paul provides us with a clear, concise battle plan for prayer. Here’s what he says: “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.”
In just those 13 words Paul provides us with a three-point battle plan for a powerful and prosperous prayer life. First, Paul tells us to be persistent in prayer!
• BE PERSISTENT IN PRAYER
Paul begins by saying, “Devote yourselves to prayer…” The word translated “devote” implies unrelenting persistence. It’s the opposite of “hit and miss.” The Amplified Version translates it: “Be persistent and devoted to prayer” (Colossians 4:2 AMP).
In other words, don’t give up! Be consistent and committed in your prayer life. You may have dry times and days when you don’t know what to say. You may have moments where it feels like your prayers aren’t reaching past the ceiling, but keep praying anyway.
Jesus actually tells a parable about the importance of persistence in prayer.
“Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.” (Luke 11:5-8 NLT)
Now don’t misunderstand. Jesus isn’t comparing God to this grouchy neighbor. In fact, just the opposite—He’s saying that if persistence paid off as a man beat on the door of a reluctant friend, how much more would persistence bring blessing to us as we pray to a loving Heavenly Father! Jesus then concludes, “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9 NLT).
Believe it or not, God actually wants to meet our needs. He wants us to keep coming to him in prayer. He hasn’t set a limit on the number of times we can come to Him about a particular need – whether our prayer is for ourselves or on behalf of someone else. D.L. Moody once commented, "Some people think God does not like to be troubled with our constant coming and asking. The way to trouble God is NOT to come at all." By praying persistently we not only get answers to our prayer but more importantly we develop a richer and deeper relationship with our Heavenly Father. Persistent prayer isn’t about changing God’s mind. It is about drawing near to the heart of God.
Persistence might look different from person to person. Maybe you have a special place in your home that you go to pray for twenty minutes a day. Maybe you pray in the car on the way to work, or several times a day wherever you are. I receive prayer requests all day long – every day. They come from friends – maybe by a text message, phone call, or even Facebook. The request may come from one of my students. Or from someone I don’t even know. I prefer to pray short, simple prayers several times throughout the day. It is at those times that I most often pray. At the time a need comes to my attention. So regardless of where or when you pray, just keep praying. Make prayer a priority every day. The first point of our battle plan is to be persistent in prayer.
Then, Paul urges us to be perceptive in prayer.
• BE PERCEPTIVE IN PRAYER
You may have heard about Big Ed. Big Ed is this good ol’ boy who goes to a revival and listens to the preacher. After a while, the preacher asks anyone with needs to come forward to be prayed over. Big Ed gets in line. When it’s his turn, the preacher asks, “Big Ed, what do you need me to pray about?” Big Ed says, “Preacher, I need you to pray about my hearing.” So the preacher sticks one finger in Big Ed’s ear and one hand on his head and shouts, hollers, and prays a while. After few minutes, he removes his hands and asks, “How’s your hearing now?” Big Ed says, “I don’t know, Preacher, it ain’t until next Wednesday at the County Courthouse.” I believe that it would be safe to say that preacher wasn’t praying very perceptively. Paul tells us, however, “Pay attention or be alert when you offer prayers…” The NIV Translation says to pray "being watchful and thankful," Other translations say to be “watchful, with an alert mind.”
In other words, we need to be looking for opportunities and occasions to pray. Paul puts it this way n Ephesians 6:18: “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
No situation or circumstance is too insignificant to pray about. When you see a car accident on the road ahead of you… pray about it. When you have a test coming up… pray about it. When you’ve got a big decision to make… pray about it. When your garden needs more rain… pray about it. When you’re stressed out and overwhelmed… pray about it. When your kids leave for school in the morning… pray for them. When someone makes your life difficult … pray for them. When someone shows you kindness… pray a prayer of blessing for them. When someone you know is struggling… pray with them.
Pray for our government, our nation, the community you live in, the homeless, children without parents. Pray for your employees or employer. Pray for people who don’t know Christ and those that have run away from God. Pray for those struggling with addiction and temptation. Pray for our congregation, for preachers and missionaries in other parts of the world. Pray for wisdom to make good decisions. Pray for strength to stick to your convictions. Pray that you don’t fall into temptation. Pray for boldness to share your faith.
There is nothing you can’t pray about. It only takes a moment to pray about someone or something. But as we become more alert to the needs around us and perceptive in our prayers, God will begin to transform us into prayer warriors.
So our first task is to be persistent in prayer. And, we need to be perceptive in prayer. Finally, Paul instructs us to be praiseful in prayer!
• BE PRAISEFUL IN PRAYER
You may recognize the name Rudyard Kipling as the author of The Jungle Book. He also wrote several other books and poems in his lifetime. He enjoyed great success as an author and poet and made quite a bit of money while he was at it. One time, during an interview, a newspaper reporter told him, “Mr. Kipling, I’ve heard that somebody has calculated the money you make from your writings to a hundred dollars a word.” Kipling raised an eyebrow and said, “Really? I certainly wasn’t aware of that.” The reporter reached into his pocket and pulled out a hundred dollar bill, gave it to Rudyard, and said, “Here’s a hundred dollars. Now let’s hear one of your hundred dollar words.” Rudyard Kipling accepted the money, put it in his pocket, looked the reporter right in the eye, and said, “Thanks!”
I am not sure that reporter even caught what Kipling said. But, he was right, wasn’t he? The word, “Thanks” is a priceless word that’s too seldom heard and too rarely spoken. It’s also a vitally important part of our plan for prayer.
Again, Paul writes, “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart” (Colossians 4:2 NLT).
Prayer is about praising God—thanking Him for all He’s done and all He is. The word “thanks” lifts the spirit. To say thanks is to recognize we have received a gift. Something. Anything. It doesn’t matter what it is. To say thanks is to move us from have-not to have-much, from grumbling to gratitude. Thanks proclaims, “I’m not disadvantaged, disabled, victimized, scandalized, forgotten, or ignored. I am blessed.” Some of you may know something about dialysis. Dialysis flushes bad blood out and infuses good blood into the body. Saying thanks acts somewhat like that. It flushes the self-pity out of our systems.
In Scripture, the idea of giving thanks is not a suggestion or recommendation. It is a command. Time and again, the Bible issues commands like this one: “Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 106:1 NIV). More than a hundred times, either by imperative or by example, the Bible commands us to be thankful. If quantity implies the importance of an action, we can see that God takes thanksgiving seriously.
We occasionally sing the song "Count Your Blessings". But how often do we actually do that? Sure, we’re usually good about giving thanks for the obvious things—family, a roof over our heads, and food in our stomachs. But there is so much more to be thankful for.
We all have things we are thankful for. Your list may be different than mine, but I would encourage you, rather than praying a list of your burdens, itemize your blessings before God. The next time you bow your head to pray, make sure to count some of your blessings. You’ll never run out of reasons to say thanks!
So here’s Paul Battle Plan for prayer:
• Be persistent: pray every day, don’t give up, don’t quit. Just keep praying.
• Be perceptive: pray about every situation and circumstance.
• Be praiseful: give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
As we put Paul’s plan into practice it will not only totally transform our prayer life; it will totally transform every aspect of your life. Because persistent, perceptive, praiseful prayer doesn’t just change your circumstances; it changes you.