These are my notes from a sermon series I did. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
We are in a series of lessons on prayer.
- Last time we examined what it means to pray in faith from James 1. We learned that praying in faith is being dependent on God alone. It is being completely dependent on God to answer, guide, or provide in some way. Praying in faith involves being decisive when it comes to God. Praying in faith is having a mind that is made up to do whatever God tells you to do when He answers your prayer. You are not going to waver in this. That’s praying in faith according to James.
- Today, we are going to explore God’s desire for you and me to be devoted and dedicated to prayer. We are going to try to answer questions like, “Why do I need to be dedicated to praying?” “What are some aspects of prayer that I need to be dedicated too?” and “What are the benefits or consequences to being dedicated or not dedicated to praying?”
To get us started let’s take a look at Colossians 4:2, “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” (NLT). What are some attitudes and lessons we learn about praying from this?
Be devoted to prayer
Number one, be devoted to prayer. Colossians 4:2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer…” (NLT). I know that sounds very basic and very simple, but if it were simple our commitment to praying would be easy and all the believers would be doing it. We would all be prayer warriors.
God wants you to be persistent and persevere in talking to Him. Don’t let the devil draw you away from talking to God. God wants you to be devoted and dedicated to having conversations with Him. He wants you to be devoted to laying your requests and concerns before Him. He wants you to be persistent in praying for others. He does not want you to give up on praising Him and thereby reminding yourself how great and awesome God always is and always will be.
Being devoted to prayer involves three things. These three aspects of devotion come from the word “devote” (proskartereo).
- First, being devoted to prayer involves persistence. This is to be “courageously persistent” and “to not let go.” God is calling on you to persist in prayer even when it looks like God is not answering, even when you don’t feel like praying, and even when you think all is lost. You are to hold fast to God’s promises and God’s Word and not let go.
- Second, being devoted to prayer involves focus. Being devoted means to dedicate one’s time, attention, and strength to the task. When you focus on something you eliminate a lot of things so you can concentrate you energy on that one thing. There are times when you will need to focus on prayer.
- Third, being devoted to prayer involves consistence. It’s the ability or habit of repeating something on a regular basis. It means to be “busily engaged in” this thing. Prayer is a habit for you. Throughout the day you are lifting up various people and situations that come to your heart and mind. You are consistent in your prayer life.
Near the end of Colossians we are given an example of someone who is devoted to prayer. His name is Epaphras. Look at what Paul says about this guy in Colossians 4:12-13, “Epaphras, a member of your own fellowship and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. He always prays earnestly for you, asking God to make you strong and perfect, fully confident that you are following the whole will of God. 13 I can assure you that he prays hard for you and also for the believers in Laodicea and Hierapolis” (NLT). That is being devoted to prayer. That’s being persistent, focused, and consistent in praying for someone.
Be alert in prayer
We are to be devoted to prayer, but… number two, we are to be alert in prayer. Colossians 4:2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind…” (NLT). Here God is connecting our commitment to prayer with being mentally alert regarding what to pray for and how to pray for it. There are two things you need to know about having an “alert mind.”
- An “alert mind” is an awake mind.
First, an “alert mind” is an awake mind. I want to encourage you to set aside time during the day to pray when you are the most mentally alert. It is hard to pray when you are physically and mentally tired. When you are drowsy and distracted it is hard to stay focused in your prayers.
An example of this is when Jesus asked His disciples to pray. As Jesus was nearing His crucifixion Jesus took the disciples off to garden called Gethsemane. Jesus asked His disciples to pray while He went a little ways off to pray alone. After about an hour Jesus “returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, ‘Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 41 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!’” (NLT). Your “spirit is willing” to pray, willing to sacrifice, and willing to do what’s right, but your “body is weak” and often times our body overcomes our spirit.
There are going to be those times you will need to persist in praying when you are tired and exhausted, but most of the time you can choose when you focus on praying. I recommend that you choose a time that is good for you. A time when you are alert, focused, and ready to do business in the world of prayer. An alert mind is an awake mind.
- An “alert mind” is an aware mind.
Also, an “alert mind” is an aware mind. To pray “with an alert mind” is broader than mere physical alertness. It also means that you should look for those things about which you ought to be praying.
- Be alert to how your children are doing and what they are struggling with, pray for them regarding that thing. Are they struggling with anger, depression, self-control, relationships? Pray about those things.
- Be alert toward how your spouse and marriage are doing. Pray about how to love your spouse, serve your spouse, communicate with your spouse. Pray for your spouse’s spiritual growth and the things that are concerning them.
- Be alert to what God is doing in the lives of those you go to school with or those you work with. Have you ever prayed for those you work with by name? Have you ever prayed for those you sit next to in class every day?
- Be alert to what the devil is doing also. He is trying to discourage, defeat, and divide a lot of people. He is all about stealing, killing, and destroying. He is working on you, your marriage, your family, your finances, your attitude, and other areas of your life. God is at work, but the devil is also at work. This is why we are told in 1 Peter 5:8, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (NLT).
An alert mind is aware mind. You are aware of what is happening in your life and the lives around you and you pray accordingly.
Be thankful in prayer
We are to be devoted to prayer. We are to be alert in prayer and number three, we are to be thankful in prayer. Colossians 4:2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart” (NLT). The world you live in surrounds you with ungrateful attitudes, unappreciative words, and unthankful actions. It’s easy to be unthankful, ungrateful, and dissatisfied. It takes focus and persistence to stay thankful. Being thankful in prayer helps you to be thankful in life.
In Colossians we are given several things to be thankful for. Let me introduce them to you.
- You are to be thankful for your salvation (1:12). If you are a believer, thank God for forgiving you of your sins, selfishness, and attitude toward Him, others, and yourself. Say, “Thank you God, for loving me enough to rescue me from my rebellion against you. Thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die on that cross for me and allowing me to become a part of your family.”
- You are to be thankful for your spiritual growth (2:6). Some of you are new at following Jesus and some of you have been following Him for a while. You are not what you used to be. You honor God more, you honor others more, and you feel closer to God now than you use too. You have a better perspective on how to love others and how to live your life in such a way that reflects God’s work in your life. You are being transformed by the Spirit of God working in your life. You have spiritually grown in Christ. Say, “Thank you God, for growing me, changing me, and transforming me since you saved you. Thank you for helping me to build my life on You and to grow in the knowledge of Your Word.” Be thankful for your spiritual growth.
- I am to be thankful for other believers (3:15). Relationships are not easy. That’s why God’s Word tells us to clothe ourselves with things like mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You will need all that as you live among people, even if they are believers. God wants you to love the people in your life and to be thankful for them as they bless you or you bless them.
- I am to be thankful for opportunities to serve others (3:17). Whatever you say or do toward others you are to say and do as a representative of the Lord. See every difficult person as an opportunity to express God’s presence and love toward that person. God wants to use you in the difficult person’s life. This is where you say, “Thank you God for wanting to use me and giving me the opportunity to serve You by serving them.”
- I am to be thankful for answered prayer (4:2). As we devote ourselves to praying for others and various situations we are told to pray with a thankful heart. This includes being thankful for whatever God does and doesn’t do regarding your prayer request. This is where you say, “God thank you for however you may answer my request because I know You answer is the right answer whether I understand it or not.”
One of my favorite statements about prayer from God’s Word is Philippians 4:6 which says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (NLT). Part of not going crazy with worry and anxieties is learning the power of gratefulness. I’m not sure how it works, but there is something calming about having a grateful and thankful heart in whatever circumstances you find yourself in.
When you are praying with dedication then you are being devoted to prayer, alert in prayer and thankful in prayer. Let me give you a spiritual assignment. If you don’t do this already, set aside five minutes to focus on talking to God. Mute your phone, get away from people, turn of the TV and the music. It’s just you and God, and pray. Do this every day for the next seven days for five minutes and see what God does through your time with Him.