“Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving;” Colossians 4:2 (NASB)
Over the course of the letter to the Colossians, Paul doesn’t hide our need for God and salvation through the cross. Our connection to God and His guidance is through studying and knowing His word and prayer (chapter 1). In this particular text God showed me something I haven’t really taken to heart fully and don’t completely understand. But here it goes.
I’ve been told growing up that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12 NIV) And it’s true. I’m not in a battle against those I have conflict with, but the disagreement comes from an attack the enemy is trying to use to cause division and destruction. Let’s be honest with ourselves. A majority of the time we don’t see what’s really going on beyond the surface of things. And we all know that giving in to the surface issues causes grief for all those involved and affects more relationships than the one we have the conflict with.
But what about prayer? Do we notice the conflict going in it? Why does Paul say to be alert in it?
I’ve read the other translations I normally use to get a better picture of what he’s talking about, but none of them could get to clarity. I wondered why the New American Standard Bible said, “alert in it (prayer).” I’ve also pulled out the Greek and went through each word to see who was more literal. That’s why I’ve chosen this translation for this passage. Paul doesn’t say to simply be watchful or alert in life as a whole. He’s talking specifically about prayer. Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be alert in other areas of our life. By all means we should be very alert. But what we must be alert in is prayer.
Check this out. When we begin communicating with God through prayer, we are leaving a physical realm to enter into the spiritual. This is where faith comes in. If we don’t believe in God, we have no reason to pray. So faith is a spiritual weapon. There’s a much deeper battle going on beyond the surface of things, like I mentioned earlier. When we begin to pray, we enter into the thick of the battle we don’t typically see or understand.
We’re communicating with our Commander and Chief. And the first thing the enemy tries to do is cut the lines of communication. Ever notice how often we easily get distracted while praying? We hear coughing, a child act up, our minds wander and don’t focus (did I turn off the iron?), our throats get dry and we need a drink, suddenly our bladder can’t hold it any longer, there’s an itch and I can’t reach it, their shoelaces are untied, and the wind is really strong today. Lines get cut. Did we notice it? Now we do. The enemy has a pretty good idea of when we’re praying. He notices when he begins to lose and he’ll raise hell to do everything he can to start winning again.
We receive our instruction from God’s Word, the manual for a life that pleases Him and a letter that expresses the most needed, faithful, and gracious love. The weapons the enemy uses and works the best is busyness. It’s easy to put things off. And because our priorities are messed up in life, the most important thing given to us on this earth collects dust on the sofa table. We keep it out so we remember. But it can easily become a decoration instead of our Life Blood. This is why an attitude of thanksgiving is so important. The more we realize with extreme gratitude the depth of love that brought Jesus to the cross for us, the stronger the lines of communication become with our Commander and the more alert we become to the things that try to cut those lines.
So devotion to prayer is necessary. It’s a must in our life. Keeping the lines open with God give us more of the life He freely gives to the faithful. The signal gets stronger, the message gets clearer the closer we move in the direction of Him. Prayer is the force that moves the powerful hand of God. Paul knew it and that’s why he asked the Colossians for prayerin the next few verses that God would open a door for the word, to speak our boldly and clearly for the cause of Christ, to proclaim the message of the gospel. Yes, the battle is much fiercer than we realize and those on the front lines must be lifted up for protection and courage.
The cause is great and the battle is hard. But there’s something else I learned that brings more comfort and courage. The battle belongs to the Lord (1 Samuel 17:47). When we realize, like David, that it’s all in His hands, our faith can take a leap because God is on our side! If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31) The war is already won! We have battles throughout where the enemy tries to take us down with him. But we must be devoted and ever alert in prayer, continually thankful to the God who saves us.