Monday, November 10, 2008

Devoted, Smart, Thankful Prayer

This past weekend, we hosted our Fall Leadership Summit, and I focused on Colossians 4:2- "Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart." I've really been challenged by that in the past couple months.

I don't know that I can honestly say that I am "devoted" to prayer. I'm not sure NCC as a church could say it's "devoted" to prayer. When I look critically at my own life, I think I can say I'm devoted to a few things. I'm devoted to developing leaders. I'm devoted to learning all I can about discipleship. I'm devoted to Coca-Cola (yes, I am). I think I'm even devoted to Scripture. Prayer? I don't think so. And yet, if we want to actually make any of the difference in this world that we claim we want to make, we've got to be devoted to it.

It's not the only time we see the early church devoted to prayer: Acts 2:42, "They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostle's teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord's supper and prayer.

This verse tells us to pray in two ways. First, with an alert mind. I need to pray smart. I fall into the trap of lobbing soundbyte prayers up to God. It's like I know the catch-phrases and the buzzwords to pray for different things, and that's what I pray. It's lazy and it's a cop-out. I'm not sure it's even prayer. To pray smart means to really see what's going on in the lives of the people we are praying for. It means to think about what we are asking for. It means we are praying without ceasing because everything we encounter becomes an opportunity and environment for gaining God's blessing, perspective, or guidance. We often close our eyes in reverence to God when we pray, but I think the best prayers are prayed with both eyes wide open- one on Scripture and one on the world around us. I want to pray intentionally and intelligently. I want to pray smart.

The second instruction we are given is to pray with a thankful heart. I want my prayers to begin with, be saturated in, and end with gratitude. I want to thank God for what he's done in my life. There are some things I just can't thank him enough for-- salvation, my family, my friends, my church community, etc. And I want to thank him in advance for the things he is going to do in my life. I think that praying with gratitude also helps us hit that "praying without ceasing" thing. As we experience day to day life with a growing awareness of the things we should be thankful for, we also develop a growing awareness of the presence of God.

Devote yourself to prayer. Pray smart. Pray Thankfully.


At 11:44 AM, Blogger Rick said...

Heather, as a small group affinado myself I understand your journey with prayer. My passion for learning, living (I'm not nearly consistent enough in this area), teaching the narrative and propositions found in the Bible is fantastic. But setting aside time to as well as praying is a whole different struggle. Hang in there!

By the way... Super presentation at Willow Creek Small Group Conference. As a small group trainer myself I see a massive (well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration) number of talks and presentations. That doesn't include the seventy or more I do myself annually. You guys really nailed it. Thanks for giving more great info to the small group community. I learned from you!


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