Dear church,

Leading off the apostle Paul’s last instructions to the Colossian church is this instruction: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

We know the apostle Paul was writing to the church. This was a communal command. And the church’s corporate tradition – still young in those days – always was to pray.[1]

Of the early days after the ascension, Luke wrote, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:14).

Later, the apostles told the church they had a sacred duty that could not be put aside: “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).

And Paul wrote to the Roman church about what it means to be a church: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

The idea is straight-forward: The church is to be a corporate prayer warrior. It is to commit itself to the practice of prayer, and to persist in it no matter what.

But the church also was to be “watchful in it.” There’s a sense here of being wary of danger. And there’s a sense of being spiritually alert.

And when we pray as a community, we must practice this watchfulness. We gather together knowing Satan would rather we didn’t. And yet we enter into prayer with our spirits attune to our communal risks. Where have we entered into a funk as a church? Where has Satan or our weak-wills gotten the upper hand? Where have we yielded victory to the flesh?

This is being watchful and spiritually aware as a community. And as we pray, and as we share the results of our prayer with each other, we can begin to discern where we’ve been and where God would like to lead us.

And so as a church – as the family of God – we will pray with watchfulness.

And we will pray with thanksgiving. In everything, for the church, there is thanksgiving. It perhaps is the ultimate shield of protection for the saints of God – to remember the blessings of being his children.

Our thanksgiving – the same thanksgiving that opens the Lord’s Supper in prayer – pushes back against the forces of evil that would cause us to despair.

And so there is a lot bound up in this one command of Paul, closing out the Colossian correspondence: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

May we follow through.

Chris


[1] Michael F. Bird, Colossians/Philemon (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2009), 120.

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