Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Praying for Your World

(Articles of Faith, 2)

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message . . .(Colossians 4:2,3) 
How can we effectively pray for our neighbors, friends and relatives who may not have faith? How can prayer really make a difference in our world? The Apostle Paul gives us four clues for effective, outreach-type of praying that can change your world for Christ.

Clue #1: Understand Your World-System
Paul understood his world. Belief in self was at the center of his world, as it is in ours. Christianity was being debunked and replaced by a cult that demoted Christ and that stressed rigorous self-discipline and self-denial as the way to God (cf. Col. 2:16ff). He knew that Jews, even Jewish Christians, would be misunderstood. Thus, he asks the Colossian Christians to pray for clarity for him in conversing and witnessing to those around him. He wanted to be wise in the way he acted around his world. He wanted to seize every opportunity given him for the gospel proclamation.

Similarly, you and I live in a system of non-Christian thought and life. What worked twenty or ten or even five years ago does not work today in reaching those around us with the gospel. Do you know, really know, your world-system? Do you understand the burdens, sorrows, pains and thought patterns of those who do not know Jesus Christ around you and with whom you work with, or visit with, or even live with, every day? If not, find out!

Clue #2: Watch!
The term indicates a cautious and active sensitivity to the deceitful and deceptive nature of sin around us. It is a verb in the present tense, so the emphasis is on a continuous, daily alertness. Christians, the “sin” alert level is beyond orange or red. We must guard against being desensitized by the open disregard for God and what is right around us. We must guard against the tendency for spiritual drowsiness in not clearly seeing the spiritual battles going on around us. We must fight spiritual paralysis in thinking that prayer really doesn’t matter. Watch!

Clue #3: Give Untiring Commitment to Prayer
“Devote yourselves to prayer,” the Bible says. That means persist in prayer, be faithful in prayer, have the courage to persevere in prayer, and do all of this daily! Joseph in Egypt continued in prayer irrespective of his political or personal position. Daniel and his friends persevered in prayer, even directly disobeying royal orders.

In watching the Australian open, I have been impressed with Serena Williams play. She entered the tournament far down in the professional standings. Yet, she continues to win, even when the announcers and others seem to write her off. Why? She knows that winning means never giving up, never letting up, never getting frustrated and angry, never letting her opponent dictate her game. She knows how to win. Do we know how to win in the spiritual arena of prayer?!

Clue #4: Always Be Thankful!
Thankfulness in prayer is actually a conscious consecration of the heart, mind and will to acknowledge the daily mercies of God through Jesus Christ. Lack of thankfulness indicates a heart of unbelief and hypocrisy (Romans 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:2,3). Thankfulness in praying for our world helps us maintain perspective, be consciously aware of our blessings, relieves tension and worry (Philippians 4:6f) and replaces wrong speech patterns as we daily deal with those around us (Ephesians 5:4, 20).

Why pray? As one writer has reminded us: “Prayer is striking the winning blow. Service is gathering the results.” Let’s strike the winning blow for God – and pray!!