Prayer and 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.

The Fruit of Grace Grown Confidence

Reposted from Learning to be Full of Grace and Truth

danPeople who are living in God’s grace have great confidence in their relationship with God because they know their standing before God is based totally on grace and not for what we do or how successful we are or are not. Not only does God’s grace secure our position before God, it also secures God’s position with us because we are loved for who we are in Christ. And because of the unmatched power of God we can be sure that our confidence will not ever disappoint.

How does this confidence show itself? Let me share with you four ways this God-grounded confidence shows itself in the Christian life.

First, it allows us to relax and be ourselves. We can be honest and transparent about ourselves because we know that our confidence is in the power of God’s grace and not in anything in ourselves. We don’t need to wear masks or hide who we are or pretend we are better than we are, because in God’s grace we are completely accepted and loved by God.

Godly humility, far from contradicting this confidence walks hand in hand with it. In fact, if you do not have the humble spirit we talked about last week that recognizes who you are in light of who God is, you will find it hard to have this confidence! It is a confidence that is totally grounded in the undeserved, unearned, forgiving grace of God!

Second it allows us to focus on God’s work. Because we do not need to worry about succeeding or failing or whether or not we have what it takes to get God’s work done, we can focus all our energy on doing what God wants us to do right now. We are servants who do what we are told, God Almighty is responsible for accomplishing the work.

Third, it encourages us to accept feedback without getting caught up in pleasing people. We aren’t living to please the crowd. We are living to please God. He is our Audience. As Ken Blanchard says, He is our “audience of One.” When we know that, we can listen to feedback without getting caught up in needing to justify ourselves to others.

And fourth, it encourages us to be hopeful and positive, knowing that God is going to accomplish all He wants done through us and in us. This doesn’t mean that Christians are supposed to be a bunch of Pollyannas who are always happy and don’t have a care in the world. But the person who is living in and living out of God’s grace—even in the darkest time—can say with David, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for You are with me (Psalm 23:4). The confidence of grace reminds us that the hope we have in Christ cannot be taken from us. It reminds us that, to live is Christ but to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). Or as my friend Charlie Jones used to say, “All news is good news in Christ.”

I want to leave you with one question: Where is your confidence? Is it in people, or your talents, or your money, or your success? If that is where it is, you are not living in or living out God’s grace.

There is only one place to stand where unshakable confidence is found. And that is when your life is planted along the riverbank of God’s grace, with your roots reaching deep into the life-giving water of the Spirit of God.

God’s loving grace grows a confidence in our relationship with God and in His relationship with us. This confidence is buttressed by the fact that the grace God gives is also a sovereign grace and cannot be overcome by any force in heaven, on earth, or under the earth.

This confidence shows itself by allowing us to relax and to be transparent with others because we know our identity and worth are founded on and secure in Christ. Because of that, it allows us to focus on what God wants us to do today, right now, instead of worrying about the approval of others. And it allows us to always have hope regardless of our present circumstances because we know that God always wins. Again as Charlie Jones encouraged me one time, “Dan, you can run the race with joy, because the race is fixed!”