Watching and Praying (Part One)
Read: Colossians 4:2-4; Ephesians 6:18-20
We received a call on Thursday morning. It is only April, but the first few fires have already broken out in the area. Thankfully, the fire we were asked to pray about is already 100% contained, and we're thankful that no lives were lost. As I thought about this, my mind flashed back to a short news story I saw on TV a few years ago.
A rancher was being interviewed, and he was saying that during fire season, they scan the horizon looking for even the tiniest indication of the beginning of a fire. They are on alert because of their care for not only their own land and animals but what belongs to others as well. The hope is that their diligence will lessen the amount of damage that any given fire might cause. What a picture of the command for us to be watchful in prayer, something Colossians 4 tells us to do. No, we're not watching for little puffs of smoke. We're watching as we live out each day for opportunities to pray. We are on call. We are watching for chances to ask God for His intervention on behalf of not only us and our loved ones, but also for the Master's care in the places that He puts on our hearts.
However, sometimes, we don't default to prayer; so, let's look at what other actions we often take and remind ourselves that there is a more fruitful way. The way of prayer.
1. Fretting or worrying. My grandma was a fretful lady. One night she laid awake worrying about Mrs. Nixon and how she would get through her husband's Watergate struggles. Of course, she had never met the First Lady; even so, she was the person Grandma fretted about on that particular night. The sad thing is that Grandma's restlessness and inability to sleep didn't help either her or Mrs. Nixon. I too can react in the same way. I so easily spend time pondering over the "what ifs" rather than running to the One Who bids me to cast every care upon Him, 1 Peter 5:7. Like Martha, I sometimes fret over the details of situations rather than praying and listening to Jesus' voice, Luke 10:38-42. When that happens, I miss out on His words of comfort or direction. Fretting can make it more difficult than it should be in any given situation; so when we see its first little "sparks", with the Holy Spirit's enabling, let's call out to the Savior instead, Psalm 55:22.
2. Acting too quickly. Sometimes, when a perplexing or overwhelming circumstance presents itself, we allow our emotions to lead us. We fall into the thinking that doing something, no matter what, is far better than simply praying. It is so easy to forget the wisdom, power and love held out to us by the One to Whom we are praying, and the world plays right into that kind of thinking. Lately, I have noticed that prayer is disdained and mocked by some when it is held out as a gift. Yes, praying for someone is a gift even when it isn't received as such. Once I told someone that I would be praying for him. His reaction? He told me not to do it. The beauty of giving the gift of prayer is that it can't be sent back like an unread letter. It can't be exchanged for something that is perceived to be better. It can't even be stopped. It is truly the perfect gift. Perhaps those who don't yet belong to Jesus have always had little use for prayer, but only now, have they been so bold about saying so. In any case, calling out for the Creator/Redeemer's help and enabling before charging forward is neither useless or a substitute for other action. No, as King Jehoshaphat would tell us, as humans we don't know what to do, but we look to the One Who can guide in every situation, 2 Chronicles 20:12. When we pray first, we are admitting our weakness and inability compared to the Lord's. We are humbling ourselves before the One Who is able to do more than we can ask or think, Ephesians 3:20. It is understandable when the world thinks that prayer shouldn't be our first resort, but when we observe the first little "sparks" that indicate a need, it is to the Father that we should run, Matthew 7:7-11.
3. Doing nothing. Sometimes, times that are overwhelming bring inactivity. Even prayer seems to be too difficult at times; therefore, we might do nothing at all. I wonder if that was how the Israelites felt after Moses' confronting of Pharaoh resulted in harder work for them. Instead of freedom, they were forced to continue to make bricks without being provided with the necessary straw, Exodus 5:1-14. Their expectations were shattered. So, when Moses came to them with God's promise of deliverance, they weren't encouraged, Exodus 6:1-9. They didn't thank God in prayer or cry out for His help for their unbelief. Their spirits weren't lifted up by the truth, but God being faithful and gracious did exactly what He had promised. He brought them out of slavery and displayed His miracles even though the people were unable to receive comfort from His Word. Yes, sometimes when we see the little reminders that prayer is needed, we don't answer the bell. No, it isn't the best response we can have, but honestly, it happens. That's when we need God's sustaining grace to lift us up and help us to be faithful when the need for prayer arises the next time. I'm thankful that the Lord doesn't give up on us for He knows that we are dust, Psalm 103:14. That's a good reason to pray for one another. We all have times of weakness, and how good it is to have brothers and sisters who take note of the little "sparks" that remind them to pray for us.
Lord, You see how dry our land is here. Please send us good moisture, and help the watchers to discover any fire quickly so that they can be put out. Father, Help us to be watching for Your nudges to pray, and thank You that we have this privilege.