If you had to pick two words that you wanted to describe your prayer life, what would they be? Would you want it to be described as fervent and diligent? How about powerful and passionate? Or what about tender and intimate? And what two words do you think God would pick? Of all the words that God could have chosen, who would guessed that he would have picked the words watchful and thankful? Two great words no doubt, but probably not the first two I would have thought of. I guess that shows what I know about prayer.
In Colossians 4:2, Paul encourages us to be devoted to prayer. It is the same word used in Acts 2:42 to describe the four things the new community of believers devoted themselves to in order to nurture and grow the fires of God’s Spirit that were burning among and within them. The Greek word (proskartereō) actually means to be strong toward. So, here in Colossians, Paul is encouraging us to always be strong toward prayer. And the way we do that is by being both watchful and thankful.
To be watchful (grēgoreō) means to give strict attention to, to be vigilant, or to stay awake. Thus, a significant part of the life of prayer is relentlessly paying attention to all that God is doing within and around us. Having eyes to see and ears to hear exactly what he is up to. I guess he knew how easy it would be to get distracted, or to be lulled to sleep, by all of the daily tasks and worries and chores that compel and consume us.
And he also tells us to be thankful. The word used here is eucharistia, which comes from the word eu, meaning good, and the word charizomai, which means to grant favor. Thus, we are thankful when we realize that we have been granted good favor. When we begin to see that all things are a gift and that God is the giver of all good gifts. Life is not a right but a privilege. It is something that has been given to us and, therefore, is something to be cherished and nurtured.
Thus, prayer is a way of being with God that nourishes and sustains these two things. It helps us stay awake to him and all that he is up to, and it fills us with gratitude for both who he is and for what he does. It makes us grateful that we belong to him and that we have the privilege of living both for and with him each day. Now that’s something to be thankful for!