Last post, I talked about little old ladies, and how I wanted to be one. Well, I'm not quite ready to be old, but I am striving to pray like one! The verse that inspired my call to prayer is Colossians 4:2. "Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart." Those little old ladies have this devotion part figured out! They know that prayer is all about being in God's presence and taking the time to pray.
But what about the second part of this verse? The alert mind and a thankful heart? This part of the verse challenged me as well. Here is how I used to pray: I would lay myself down in my comfy bed, maybe I had just finished reading the Bible, and I would turn out the lights and try to pray. Needless to say, I was not successful. The warmer and cozier I became, the shorter my prayer. My mind was no where near what I would call "alert." Or, on a better day, I would be sitting on my couch trying to read and pray when, "ding," my phone would notify me of a new message. Or, in the midst of the quiet I would hear, "Mom! I have to go potty!" Now, my mind was alert, but it was not focused on prayer.
What was keeping me from an alert mind toward prayer? Distractions. Whether it was my own choice to relax and fall asleep, or my phone or children distracting me, I was pulled away from my conversation with God. I'm hoping I'm not the only one who has struggled with this! Our lives are filled with so many distractions, some we choose and some that just happen. How do we overcome them so we can pray with an alert mind, as we are urged to do? We have to be intentional. We have to set aside a time and a place where we can actually be alert and pray. My time is when my kids nap, and my place is my couch. I can't do it in bed because I would sleep. Does this work out every day? No! My four year old is gradually outgrowing nap time (tears!). Sometimes, I do just need to take a nap so I can function for the rest of the day. But more days than not, it works. I can silence my phone and focus on God. Whatever it is, it must be intentional. The youth pastor at my church recently said, "There is no such thing as organic spirituality." If we are not intentional about praying, our prayers will not be answered. Imagine what we and others around us could be missing out on because of the prayers we simply do not pray!
This verse also says that we should pray with a thankful heart. This is also a challenge that I am working on overcoming. Is this you? When we do find ourselves motivated to pray, its usually because we need something. We find ourselves begging God for healing, comfort, peace, etc. We are praying because we feel an urgent need. This is not wrong. We should present our needs and concerns to God; He wants to hear them. But, is that praying with a thankful heart? Also, I feel like being thankful is counter-cultural. Instead of being thankful for what we have, we feel pressured to want more, to want bigger and better. I would not consider most of society to be thankful, would you?
Now as I pray, I try to tell God what I am thankful for before I bombard Him with requests. You know what? It also helps me put my problems into perspective. Once I have thanked God for who He is and what He has done, some of my urgent requests get a little smaller because I have acknowledged that my God is bigger! I also find it easier to be thankful throughout the day. It is easy to whisper a little prayer of thanksgiving to God when I see and beautiful sunrise, or when I hear my kids laughing together. This keeps us in an attitude of thanksgiving all day. And when we feel more thankful, we feel more joy. Abundant life is a joyful life! I also like to pray scriptures that offer praise to God. If we can't find the words, scripture is full of the prayers of others. The book of Psalms is a great place to find these prayers.
Something else I have found really helpful is to journal my prayers. It keeps my mind alert because I actually write them out. It keeps my heart thankful because I can look back and see how God has been faithful and answered my prayers! It is documentation that God is good and that He really is enough.
Do any of you have good tips for staying alert and thankful in prayer? I'd love to hear them!