Prayer = Watchfulness!Fr. Barnabas Powell
My daughter sits in front with me in the car many times as I drive. And she is old enough now to notice that daddy sometimes has a challenge with patience with other drivers! She’s learned my “triggers.” Well, yesterday, she looked over at me when a person in front of us didn’t move when the light turned green and she said “that person isn’t paying attention, is she daddy?”
It’s tough when your words start coming out of your children’s mouths!
But, yeah, the lady wasn’t paying attention. She was texting on her phone. I confess, I don’t do well in those situations. My old police officer habits kick in and I start looking for the “blue light” switch so I can pull her over and write her a ticket! When you don’t pay attention, things get difficult! What is true for driving a car is doubly true for living a life!
Look at our lesson today in Colossians 4:2-9:
Brethren, continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving; and pray for us also, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison, that I may make it clear, as I ought to speak. Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer every one. Tychicos will tell you all about my affairs; he is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, and with him Onesimos, the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of yourselves. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here.
St. Paul is in jail and he’s writing our dear Colossians and the surrounding parishes his “prison epistle” and he’s wrapping up his fathering teachings to them by giving them the keys to a consistent and faithful life.
He tells them that prayer is Key One. St. Barsanuphius of Optina said “In the struggle of prayer, it is absolutely necessary to force oneself, and compel oneself, to pray.” As a priest, I’ve heard every excuse in the book: “I don’t have time” “I don’t know what you say” “I get distracted” “It doesn’t seem to do any good” Yes, the excuses are multitude. But that only proves that the discipline is necessary. I tell all my spiritual children to start small with prayer, but do it consistently at the same time of day and, preferably in the same place. Take 2 minutes in the morning, first thing, and say The Lord’s Prayer with the sign of the cross. Begin small and short and, just like bodily exercise, you’ll get to the point where this prayer practice is easy. The add the morning Trisagion Prayers in your prayer book. Do this every day in the morning and before you go to bed; not as a drudgery, but so that you can stay focused!
Key Two is Thanksgiving. It isn’t a coincidence that the central act of worship since the very beginning of the Christian faith is the celebration of the Eucharist. And at the heart of the Eucharist is gratitude. We take the “stuff” of this creation; flour, water, yeast, grapes, and shape them like our Creator shaped the mud that made us. We form these elements into Bread and Wine and we offer them as a symbol of our labors, lives, loves, and prayers, to our God WHo receives them from us BUT doesn’t keep our gifts. No, He returns the very things we give Him back to us FILLED with Himself. And they become, for us, true food and true drink to satisfy our deepest hungers and thirst! Our willingness, our wakefulness to know we must “offer ourselves, one another, and our entire life, to Christ our God” cannot be accomplished without the motivation of Thanksgiving. It is only our wakefulness to being thankful that ever hopes to keep us strong enough to stay faithful!
Today, do you know how to pray with thanksgiving? If you do, you are guaranteed to stay awake in your life to your need for God and His grace and mercy. Staying awake, paying attention to the eternal things in my life are way more important than watching how I drive my car! So, developing the habit of prayer daily and the attitude of thankfulness constantly is the Key to being Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. I really love reading things like this: “Fr Barnabas talked with everyone as he signed their books, and the whole crowd of us listened as he shared his life stories, wisdom, and jokes with us. What really stuck with me through time with him and in his talks was how strongly he felt about being Orthodox on purpose, saying “Orthodoxy is either everything, or it is nothing.” With that in mind, going through the rest of his talks I felt a call to follow my faith with a renewed vigor.” We are planning speaking trips for 2018 right now. Email us at FaithEncouraged@gmail.com for more information!