Prayer. If you've been around the church or around ministry for any period of time in your life, then you've heard this word or have been asked to do it. In the South, people do it before meals, sporting events, and bedtime. We are told to bow our heads and close our eyes. Other than that, it feels like we lack in the instruction we get for it. How many times do I have to say God, Lord, Lord God, Jesus, or any other reference to God? What can I pray for? Is there anything off limits?
what does it mean to devote ourselves to prayer?
Here Paul tells us to devote ourselves to prayer. If we are going to do that, then I feel like we better understand what it looks like and why we would want to do it. Jesus gives some instruction on how to pray in Matthew 6:9-13 in what some refer to as the "Lord's prayer." In the prayer Jesus models for us, we see that it's okay to ask God for things. In fact, I think a lot of what Jesus shows us in His prayer is that prayer's ultimate purpose is to give God glory. We first recognize that God is great by declaring who He is, but then we recognize His glory by acknowledging all that He provides us (our need for Him in other words). Now that we have a general idea of the purpose of prayer, we see that Paul tells us how. Note that he doesn't say anything about the language or how to reference God, he just instructs us to do it with an attitude of thanksgiving. We don't ask God for things out of greed, we ask for things out of need grateful that God has provided us all our needs for our whole lives. We need God's work in our lives, and we have the freedom to do that in whatever language we choose. God doesn't look for lofty language or theological perfection in our prayers, He just longs to hear the voices of His children.
Now what? Do you just pray? I actually think there is more to it than that. In the same way that our prayers demand a response from God, I think that we too are to respond after praying. Paul tells us to devote ourselves to prayer and then to conduct ourselves with grace in how we talk and respond to others. We are instructed not to just throw up our prayers to some far off God, but we are called to live like our prayers are being answered in confidence that God responds to us.
Here's my prayer for after reading these passages:"God, thank you for listening to me and always providing for me. Thank you for the great people you have surrounded me with. Would you please make them feel loved. Also, I don't really know how to have grace with some people, and I would love to learn to respond to others well. Thank you for loving me. Amen." I encourage you to pray to God now in a way that is comfortable for you.
- Daniel Bailey