Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2)
Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)
How are we supposed to “continue in prayer;” to “pray without ceasing?” These commands (and they are commands) come with help for our feeble hearts. When you know that you should pray diligently in a steadfast manner, how should you go about it? Think about it this way:
You reach into the pocket of some of your unused clothing and find a $20 bill.
As you are opening your mail, you discover a very nice card that someone has written to you to tell you how much they appreciate you.
While you are walking through your garden, something catches your eye; there under the leaves you discover a luscious ripe watermelon.
At the grocery store, you are pleased to find that your family’s favorite coffee is being offered at a greatly reduced price.
Everything finally comes together for your big project, and you are able to finish it all up in a single day.
Your niece or nephew calls, just to say, “I love you,” or “I appreciate what you have done.”
In a passing conversation, your neighbor tells you what a good neighbor you have been.
When these things happen, they surprise you and bless you. But think about it another way. If you found the $20, wouldn’t you be tempted to look through the pockets of other clothes that you haven’t worn in a while? Would you watch for your daily mail differently, since you might receive another “thank you” card? Would you look through your garden more carefully? Would you think about your daily work or your neighbors in a new way?
How would it affect your attitude toward the Lord if you started taking notice of all His blessings? What do you think would happen if you were to “praise God from whom all blessings flow?”
In all these things, your thankful heart would have been tuned to look for “those little blessings.” How do you keep your heart in tune? Musicians use a “tuning fork” to make sure an instrument is in tune. Prevailing prayer also comes with a tuning fork: thanksgiving. Those who give thanks to God think about God, and their thoughtful, persistent prayer is the result.
When the Apostle Paul was writing to the congregations at Colosse and Thessalonica, he reminded them about the importance of this approach. The thankful heart that focuses on God’s blessings will be more faithful in prayer. Gratitude keeps you going.
Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving. Merely wishing can make you weary, but thanksgiving makes you thoughtful. Don’t you find that you pay closer attention to what you appreciate? Sure, gratitude changes your attitude. According to these two passages, giving thanks is the best way to “keep on keeping on.” You will be doing “the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
We live in a world that is blind to God’s blessings. How tragic it is when believers are also blind (2 Peter 1:6). If you aren’t giving thanks, you will find yourself in the sarcastic snare that starts with, “Yeah? and what have you done for me lately?” This produced the catastrophic complaints that Moses faced as he tried to lead God’s people. You need to recognize this snare and the way it hinders your prayer. Start giving thanks to God and notice how this helps you to prevail in prayer.
How would it affect others if you were to learn to do this? If you had a regular practice of giving thanks, you could pray more diligently. In so doing, you would ask the Lord to pour out His blessings on others, and thank Him for the way He answers. Think of how this would overflow into the lives of others! As others are blessed, they could learn to thank God and to pray as the blessings flow. Why not practice the kind of prayer that would enable them and be an example to them? By learning to give thanks, you can be a fountain of faithful prayer.
Prayer project: For the next two weeks, write down the blessings that you notice, and use them to give thanks to God. Watch how it affects your thinking, and how often your thoughts turn to the Lord.
— Gordon Dickson