We pray in thanks for the food, for our family, and rejoice for another day. All prayers are heard but how are they received by God who knows our hearts? Sometimes, like now, I wonder what God thinks when he hears our prayers said in the same way, with the same words, with a less than stellar attitude of expecting God to answer. Are our words becoming routine and careless; words said “in vain with repetition”? Jesus warned us about praying the same thing over and over without a lot of thought behind the words, not really expecting great revelations or responses from God, only words to say from memory and tradition. Sometimes we pray and check Him off the list of to do’s for the day. Yikes.
I’m reminded of the little girl who was asked to prayer at the table. The room was in silence. Everyone with heads bowed was wondering when the little girl would speak. Finally, her father whispered to her, “we can’t hear you”, to which she replied, “I’m not talking to you.” We laugh, but what if we really realized Who we are talking to?
Jesus told his curious disciples about praying when they asked Him. Of course, this super teachable moment by the Master Teacher did not go unnoticed—as usual. Jesus said;
“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.
“The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:
Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best—
as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.
In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do.”–Jesus
Matthew 6:6-15, The Message
I am reminded of this passage in Matthew as we read Paul’s last words in his letter to the Colossian church. He prays like Jesus taught. He asks for others to join him in prayer in a very focused way. Notice this prayer is not a litany of requests for physical wellness but a focused prayer for souls to be saved by Jesus!
Focused prayer takes the attention from self to asking God for opportunities to tell His Story of Jesus who saves us from sins. He prays specifically for help in three ways. (Paul does this in all his letters, see Ephesians specifically). If you want to get into a lost person’s life pray like Paul. Lord, open the door, open their heart, and open my mouth. It is a prayer that God loves to answer!
Colossians 4, The Message
And masters, treat your servants considerately. Be fair with them. Don’t forget for a minute that you, too, serve a Master—God in heaven.
Pray for Open Doors
2-4 Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude. Don’t forget to pray for us, that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ, even while I’m locked up in this jail. Pray that every time I open my mouth, I’ll be able to make Christ plain as day to them.
5-6 Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.
7-9 My good friend Tychicus will tell you all about me. He’s a trusted minister and companion in the service of the Master. I’ve sent him to you so that you would know how things are with us, and so he could encourage you in your faith. And I’ve sent Onesimus with him. Onesimus is one of you, and has become such a trusted and dear brother! Together they’ll bring you up-to-date on everything that has been going on here.
10-11 Aristarchus, who is in jail here with me, sends greetings; also Mark, cousin of Barnabas (you received a letter regarding him; if he shows up, welcome him); and also Jesus, the one they call Justus. These are the only ones left from the old crowd who have stuck with me in working for God’s kingdom. Don’t think they haven’t been a big help!
12-13 Epaphras, who is one of you, says hello. What a trooper he has been! He’s been tireless in his prayers for you, praying that you’ll stand firm, mature and confident in everything God wants you to do. I’ve watched him closely, and can report on how hard he has worked for you and for those in Laodicea and Hierapolis.
14 Luke, good friend and physician, and Demas both send greetings.
15 Say hello to our friends in Laodicea; also to Nympha and the church that meets in her house.
16 After this letter has been read to you, make sure it gets read also in Laodicea. And get the letter that went to Laodicea and have it read to you.
17 And, oh, yes, tell Archippus, “Do your best in the job you received from the Master. Do your very best.”
18 I’m signing off in my own handwriting—Paul. Remember to pray for me in this jail. Grace be with you.
I pray for open doors of opportunities to show your love and tell your story. I pray for open hearts to hear your Truth. I pray that you open my mouth and speak your works of love, mercy and grace. Help me to encourage today, not tear down another person who is seeking life to full. Help me to do my best for you. I trust you, dear Jesus, to help us.
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen