Colossians 4:2-6: Stay Awake! Keep Praying!

March 31, 2015

2Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
3And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message,
so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ,
for which I am in chains.
4Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.
5Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders;
make the most of every opportunity.
6Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt
so that you may know how to answer everyone.

I have been a morning person my whole life. In the evenings we have a family rule, “No major decisions after 9 p.m.” But in the morning, I feel almost invincible. This life pattern was enhanced last year while I was undergoing treatment for lung cancer. My best, most productive hours of the day were between 3 and 8 a.m., and then the day’s treatment would knock me flat again and keep me sleepy throughout the afternoon and evening.

This morning, my alarm clock went off at 3 a.m. Not for the same reason—something much more fun. In ten days I will be taking an early morning flight to Istanbul, for a two-week tour of New Testament sites in Turkey and Greece with a Fuller alumni group. There is a ten-hour time difference between California and Turkey, and I have learned over the years that a “cold turkey” time switch does not work for me. So beginning last week, I have been shortening my days by thirty minutes, adjusting the schedules for meds and meals gradually. By the time I leave, I will be on Istanbul time.

It’s getting tougher now, because as of today, my bedtime will be prior to Andy’s arrival home from work. I freely admit the social inconvenience of such a method. Andy is a very good sport even though he thinks I’m a little nutty. But the payoff is so completely worth it, I press on. Today, though, my eyes are a little heavy even here at the laptop.

The Apostle Paul has written a stellar letter to the church in Colossae, and now he can’t really finish the epistle without one more practical admonition to pray, to say awake, and to give thanks. He started the letter with a prayer for them and now circles back to that same theme, encouraging them to pray as he does and now especially for him.

It makes me wonder what was on Paul’s mind when he said to “be watchful” (literally, stay awake). Perhaps the embarrassing story of the three close disciples of Jesus, who fell asleep in prayer on Gethsemane, much to the Lord’s disappointment. Perhaps in his later years, Paul is having a harder time staying awake in periods of solitude and silence. Or maybe his joyful anticipation of Christ’s return is enough to keep him vigilant and on guard so as to be ready when the Lord shows up.

What I do know is that it is hard for me to stay awake through prolonged periods of prayer. So to “devote myself to prayer,” I have to turn in that direction several times a day until I have covered the bases. Paul asks that one of those bases be his needs and God’s advance preparation of people with whom Paul will later share the gospel. He is always on the lookout for opportunity, and when it crosses his path he is ready with speech “full of grace, seasoned with salt,” ready with an answer to any sort of question that might come his way. This is one very good reason to pray for one’s pastor—Paul’s need is universal.

And we really must be ready for whatever comes. The week’s news bombards us with “what if” scenarios: what if I had only eight minutes to live in a plane headed straight toward a mountain range? What if I were captured and my house burned to the ground by Muslims demanding my conversion? What if I were asked to officiate at a same-sex marriage, and ridiculed for holding to a traditional view of marriage? What if I got stuck on a railroad crossing as a train was approaching?

The fact is, if we are asleep at the wheel these days, there are plenty of things that can happen. Paul is clinging to the fact that prayer, alertness, and a spirit of thanksgiving are going to hold us fast in the Lord and help us acquire wisdom for the tough stands and the difficult work ahead. Where I live (San Francisco Bay Area), it is a challenge to maintain the freedom to worship and to demonstrate the Kingdom of God according to the Word of God. It’s a tough crowd, 95% unchurched, and liberalism of all kinds is status quo.

For this scenario, Paul simply asks for clarity in what he says, wisdom to navigate political/social waters, and the patience to engage in meaningful conversation with the goal in mind. We can ask for no less!

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2 Responses to “Colossians 4:2-6: Stay Awake! Keep Praying!”

  1. Thomas L Fultz, Ruling Elder Says:

    Your Colossians study has been encouraging, challenging, and insightful. The three blogs on prayer from Paul’s letter have been helpful. I recalled this one from January: “God’s wisdom is evident in a person with sufficient spiritual knowledge and experience to choose a course of action that is God-honoring and life-affirming. The wise course is to be differentiated from the most expedient course, or the most profitable course (in worldly terms), although expedience or profit may be God-honoring and life-affirming in particular situations. Having said that, the wisdom of God can seem foolhardy to world-wise people, because self-sacrifice and humility are often hallmarks of God’s way of doing things. When we pray for others, then, we are praying not only for wisdom and insight but also for the courage to follow through on a godly course of action.”

    It needed to be offered again in these days of lack of wisdom.

  2. Gene Says:

    the fact that you would compare being asked to perform a wedding for a same gender couple (have you been? have any of the conservative pastors in your circle been asked to?) and facing (gasp) ridicule while serving in a denomination that has expressly put in a clause saying that no one will have to perform one, in a nation where, to my knowledge, no pastor/priest/rabbi/imam in history has ever been forced to perform a wedding of say, a Catholic to a Hindu (or any two people..a methodist man to a UCC woman, what have you) against the clergy’s will in his or her house of worship to real world examples of people threatened with the loss of their homes (and lives, which has happened) in Iraq at the hands of terrorists, the horror of being killed in a plane crash at the hands of a mad man, or potentially dying at a railroad crossing is no small part of the reason that the PCUSA now ordains and marries (in churches that wish to perform the ceremonies) GLBT people.

    the opposition is so over the top in its fear, in its never ending lawsuits( so many have told me of the effect that had on their view of this), and its (no matter how well worded) vitriol that it made the progressives, when making their case to the undecided, look really, really good. I have seen this over and over when in conversations prior to presbytery and GA votes

    how is your freedom to worship is challenged in the bay area, or elsewhere in the USA? Someone is closing your church? preventing you from entering? made you perform a gay wedding? telling you what you cannot preach? limiting your prayer time? Somehow, I doubt any of those things are happening. The society around you not being interested in, and disdaining, your worldview/theology may be challenging, but it hardly affects your ability to worship as you please (nor should it).

    I hope you cancer does not come back, that you live to see your grandchild have a full and happy life, Have a safe trip to Turkey. Its a beautiful country.

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