Prayer and Grace


Grace

Reposted from The Life Project

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And 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. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Colossians 4:2-6

This is a really neat little passage; there’s so much to see.  As Paul closes out his letter, he reminds the people to be devoted to prayer, and while this may seem routine, after all, Apostles talk about prayer a lot, Paul here seems to bring it to life.  I’m always struck by the idea of prayer being “watchful and thankful.”  Maybe thankful, as in giving thanks isn’t so surprising, but watchful!  How often do you hear someone say that we should be watchful in our prayers?

Watchful for what?  Things you want God to give you, like little favors?  “Oh yes, and Father please send me that new Lexus…” something like that?  Somehow I doubt it. Maybe watchful for someone who needs intercession, maybe an opening for the Gospel, maybe something that is within God’s priority system− yes that seems more like the kind of “watchful” that Paul has in mind.  He continues by asking for the people to pray for him, but again, not in the way we might expect.  Notice, that even though he is in prison, he didn’t ask them to pray for his release, he asked them to pray that he might preach the Gospel effectively.

I don’t know about you, but that gets my attention every time!  When Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:5. He taught us to pray for God’s priorities. “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…”  Do we remember to do that? Are we watchful for specifics that fit into this category?  Well, I can only speak for myself, but truth be told, I forget or overlook this more often than I’d care to admit. Paul seems to continue in this line of thinking when he advises us to be wise when speaking to “outsiders,” non-Christians.  We are to be ready to make the most of every opportunity, to show them the love of Jesus Christ: Maybe we should pray for those opportunities.  We are to speak to them “with grace, seasoned with salt…” Grace is often defined as “unmerited favor” meaning that we are to deal with them in love; more love than they might deserve.

I have a little secret for you to consider:  Speaking to someone with grace is not telling them that they are wrong, even if they are.  It doesn’t mean calling them names, or being critical of the way they live.  Yes, there is a fair chance that they live as unbelievers, but guess what? They are unbelievers, and that may be just how they are supposed to live.  Our job isn’t to correct the world, it is to save the world for Christ.  This requires grace, not criticism.  Salt is an interesting metaphor; I’ve heard many different explanations for this, so I’ll throw out my thoughts.  When we season food with salt, we add it to bring out the full flavor of the ingredients, and when we speak with grace, seasoned with salt, we are sharing the full love of God who so loved the world that He sent His Son to die to save it.  We need our speech to be so full of His grace, that nobody hears the slightest little bit of condemnation come from our lips!

So, when you put this all together, maybe I should remember to pray that God will bring me opportunities, and give me the words to share, so that some may be saved.  What do you think; do you need to join me in praying this way? If not, I’d love to hear why that is.

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WWJD Revisited


wwjd

Reposted from Radical Mentoring

Back in the ‘90’s, “What would Jesus do?” was all the rage. The phrase came from the subtitle of Charles Sheldon’s 1896 book In His Steps, a novel that sold over 30 million copies. WWJD caught on with young people and thousands of bracelets and bumper stickers were sold. In 2010, a movie called What Would Jesus Do? told the story of a drifter whose needs were ignored until someone thought, “What would Jesus do?” and took action. Serving caught on, the church woke up and lives were changed.

Although I never wore a bracelet, I loved the WWJD movement. But as my kids got older and sometimes acted out, I realized there weren’t many specifics about what Jesus would do in those situations since he didn’t have kids. Same for marriage or dealing with aging parents. In many ways, asking “What would Jesus do?” required imagination and was open to interpretation. For instance, my sister and I would have come to opposite conclusions as to what Jesus would do if confronted by a teenager with an unwanted pregnancy.

So, I came up with an alternative . . . “What would Jesus have me do?” That question got a little more in my face. Instead of hypothesizing about a young Jewish man living in a different millennium in a culture I don’t understand, this question led me to make it more personal. But when I stopped and thought about it, this question didn’t make sense either. Who is the question being asked of? Am I asking God? Jesus is God, so it’s like saying “George, what would George have me do?” That seemed a little crazy.

Then a few years ago, I learned to ask God directly “Lord, what would you have me know about this situation?” Amazingly, He’s often ready to answer. What He shows me is about the heart, either mine or the person I’m asking about. He leads me to patience, kindness, understanding, compassion and self-control. Sometimes I need more, so I’ll ask, “Lord, what would you have me do with what you’ve shown me?” Often that little prayer gets answered with an unction . . . a leading . . . a next step. Every time I obey, my faith gets stronger and often, it brings a ‘God-sized’ blessing.

The problem is seeing the people around us, stopping to bring God into the situation, listening to His voice, and then obeying without question. God will never direct you to do something that’s inconsistent with His Word and usually obeying requires faith . . . doing the right thing and trusting Him for the outcome. As we mature in our faith, we’re able to distinguish His voice from our own self-talk. The more we push ourselves to trust and obey, the louder and clearer His voice becomes.

I believe this is what ‘abiding in Christ’ is all about. I believe this is what ‘walking with God’ is. I believe this is what ‘following Jesus’ is all about. I believe it’s way better than “What would Jesus do?”

Scripture: My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)