“Keep on praying and guard your prayers with thanksgiving.” Colossians 4:2 CEB
The lights were almost all turned off. The shadows were prominent along every footstep along the large and open space. The doors were all locked and the place seemed cavernous without the hustle and bustle of people shopping, eating, and talking. During the day the place was incredibly busy with people searching for the perfect item or the best gift for someone. The food court was busy serving tasty delights for people on their lunch break from the downtown offices. There were people visiting the place where so many exciting games, concerts, and events had taken place. At night, it was a different story. Everything was silent, dark, and empty. While I was in college it was my job to walk the empty halls, shake the locked doors, and guard the Lexington Center mall. I had never been a security guard before and have not been since. The role of a security guard is to keep things safe, observe and report anything unusual, and call for help from law enforcement or first responders when necessary. It is important work for which I was thankful. It is for this reason that the phrase “guard your prayers with thanksgiving” caught my eye as I read Colossians 4:2. Have you ever thought about guarding your prayers? What does it mean to guard our prayers? And with thanksgiving? The Greek word that is translated as “guard” can hold the meaning of staying alert, keeping awake, standing watch, and to be alive. The translators of the Common English Bible chose the word guard. Paul is telling the church at Colossae to keep on praying, to persevere in their prayers, and to stay alert—awake—alive—and stand guard over their prayers with thanksgiving. As a former security guard, and later police chaplain, it seems counterintuitive to guard something with thanksgiving. How is thanksgiving going to be useful in guarding anything? Yet, Paul knows what it means to follow Jesus Christ. We do not often enough couple prayer and thanksgiving. Paul isn’t talking about thanksgiving over a meal or being grateful for what we have in life on a Thursday once a year. Paul is urging the Christ-followers at Colossae to persevere in their prayers AND stay alert, keep watch over them with a deep sense of gratitude for the privilege of praying. In essence, Paul is telling them to soak everything in a deep sense of gratitude for what Jesus had done that made their prayers possible. This deep sense of gratitude, or thanksgiving, coupled with the constant conversation with Jesus will keep the hope of the Gospel going. Paul finishes the fourth chapter of Colossians by urging them to pray—not for safety or prosperity—but that the Gospel of Jesus Christ would spread. He was only concerned with the spreading of the Gospel, the hope of the world. To that end Paul told them to live wisely among those who were not Christians so that they could make the most of each opportunity to share the Gospel. He urged them to have their speech be gracious and effective with everyone. Why? Because he knew that Jesus would give every believer opportunities for which to be ready. Paul knew that our words are important. He urged them to speak in ways that graciously shared the love of Jesus. Words that effectively communicated the love that Jesus has for everyone. When we devote ourselves to prayer we are more open to the opportunities that Jesus places in our life each day. When we guard our prayers with thanksgiving we remember what a privilege it is to be in relationship with Jesus. We pray because of Jesus and prayer empowers us to live for Jesus. Are you guarding your prayers with thanksgiving? Do you realize today what a tremendous privilege it is to be in constant conversation with Jesus? Will you devote yourself to prayer today? Will you guard your prayers with thanksgiving and gratitude? Will you be wise among those who do not follow Jesus? Will you make the most of every opportunity Jesus brings your way? Will your speech be gracious and effective? These are not easy things to do. Paul reminds us that we are qualified through Christ, no person can disqualify us from that to which Christ has called us, we are people who put on love and live in unity and people who devote themselves to prayer—guarding our prayer with thanksgiving. You are qualified! Go today and live as a qualified follower of Jesus Christ and make the most of every opportunity. This Sunday we conclude our message series “Qualified.” We will discuss the call to pray. Our prayers are the beginning of the sharing of the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus. The world we live in needs Jesus. We have the opportunity to share Jesus every day. It starts with prayer. I hope you will join me this Sunday at 8:15|NINE45|11:15 for worship. You can also go to SAUMC.NET and join us via livestream. The best is yet to come. I love you all and can’t wait to see you in church!