Over the last two weeks we’ve looked at how to pray. Our strengths and weaknesses. Our struggles and the ways in which we are blessed. As we finish this series called Pause for Prayer lets look at the thing we need to aim for above everything else – whatever our prayer life might be like we just have to keep going and stick with it no matter what.
I’m not a runner! I’m not adverse to exercise and although I’m not in a routine at the moment I enjoy Pilates, Wii Fit and walking. But running is not for me.
I’m not an outdoorsy sort of person. I love being out on a lovely day but when it’s cold, windy or rainy (or all three) I’d much rather hunker down indoors than braving the elements.
Also, running is just so public! I wonder what people think of me running down the street, gasping for breath, sweating profusely and yet barely managing a jog. I know it gets easier, but to be honest I’d rather go through the pain barrier and get fit in my own home with no one but the dog to witness it!
I think the main reason I just don’t get on with the running thing though is that I lack the determination to keep going. When it starts getting tough and my legs are hurting or I’m struggling to breathe I just tend to stop! I don’t have the drive to want to keep running to achieve a longer distance or a faster time. It just isn’t enough of an incentive to make me push on through all the pain.
There are similar qualities we need for prayer as we do for running. Thankfully they do not include lycra or sweat bands! But they do include determination, stamina, strength and endurance.
Sometimes prayer is like a sprint where we need one bit of resolve and effort and we see results almost instantly through our prayers being answered.
Yet, sometimes prayer is more like a marathon when we have been praying for something desperately for a long time and we don’t see any change in the situation. Or we have those desert times in prayer when we feel alone and isolated. It is at these times when we need to have the perseverance and staying power to keep going focusing in on God and our end goals.
Paul tells us to “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” – Colossians 4:2
Prayer is a discipline just like any other. Like with exercise we have to make the choice to do it daily, to keep going even when it’s hard or painful. And to do this we must be devoted – devoted to the discipline itself but also devoted to who we’re talking to – our Father.
So, how do we keep going in prayer even when its tough – how do we grow in perseverance and devotion? Well, this little verse in Colossians gives us two really important keys to having staying power in prayer –
1. How to pray – be watchful
The Greek word used here is gregoreo which means to stay alert and is taken from the root word egeiro which means to waken or to raise up. It’s not clear how Paul means we are to be watchful.
Maybe he means that we should stay alert in prayer and not allow ourselves to become lazy or fall asleep whilst praying.
But I think that he is telling us to be watchful for prayers answered. To stay alert and awake so that we are able to see the wonderful things God is already doing in our lives and the lives of others.
Because it’s so easy to miss answered prayers. We forget all the little things we pray about every day and sometimes miss the ways in which God answers our requests.
If we are alert and watchful for the blessings we receive we will be encouraged to keep going in our prayer life even if we don’t see immediate answers for everything.
2. How to pray – be thankful
But let’s not just recognise the amazing ways in which God works in our lives, but have a thankful attitude too.
Let us be careful not to take God for granted allowing prayers answered to go unacknowledged because we are moving on to the next prayer shopping list.
Let us also be thankful for the ways in which God has blessed us that we never even asked for.
There are so many blessings that we see in our lives that we never even sought for, yet God knows in His wisdom what we need and what will bless us. If we have thankful hearts it will help us to keep going in prayer as it will not become reduced to a list of requests but will be a wonderful exchange of affection between a Father and His child.
Prayer needs faith and hope. Without these things we will hit hard times and, like me when I’m running we’ll just give up wondering what the point is. Yet, if we stay watchful for the ways in which God blesses us and answers our prayers we will continuously have a thankful heart. This will give us the stamina and perseverance to keep going even in the hardest times.
(This series Pause for Prayer is a series that we published early on in the life of Essential Thing Devotions that has been updated, revised and refreshed for all the people who missed it first time round.)
Photo used with permission by Sanja Gjenero courtesy of Stock.Xchng