Friday, May 24, 2013

Are You Contending?

I want you to know how hard I am contending for you…  Colossians 2:1
How’s your prayer life these days?  This morning while interacting with Jesus, I was led to Colossians 2:1 and was struck by Paul’s phrase contending for you.  Literally, the word means to agonize and was an athletic term describing the exertion (and pain) of an athlete to win a contest.  While Paul’s contending included more than prayer, it certainly had, at its base, a foundation of prayer.
Any healthy relationship is fueled by dialog—ongoing, honest, two-way conversation. Without open lines of communication, a relationship withers. Nowhere is this truer than in our relationship with God. He speaks to us primarily (but not exclusively) through the Scriptures, and He invites us to speak to Him through prayer. This is a remarkable invitation. The God of heaven and earth invites us to speak directly to Him, and He promises to listen! (I am freshly amazed in just typing this truth!)

Despite all this, most of us struggle to speak honestly with God and engage in a healthy rhythm of prayer. We find it even more challenging to agonize or contend in prayer.

A. W. Tozer puts it like this: “We cannot seem to get our minds into good working order, and the first thing we have to fight is wandering thoughts. The great battle in private prayer is overcoming this problem of our idle and wandering thinking. We have to learn to discipline our minds and concentrate on willful, deliberate prayer.”

Here are three thoughts that come to mind to cultivate a rhythm of prayer that is consistent and genuine:
  • Keep a list.  A prayer list will help you stay organized. If you have an affinity for lists, chances are you’re already doing this; if you don’t self-identify as a “list person,” consider keeping just this one. A written list, whether physical or digital, will keep you from making a flippant, “I’ll pray for you” promise with intention of following through. A wonderful online tool that I have discovered is called echo prayer.  Check out this site I use to manage prayer requests and schedule them to be sent to you through your inbox! 
  • Practice silence and let God dialog with you.  For the past two years, I have intentionally grown in the discipline of silence before the Lord and asked Him to speak to me.  It has been the most amazing thing…He has! I call it a discipline of silence because I have to intentionally restrain my mind so as to not wander and focus on being receptive to God’s voice.  Jesus himself said in John 10:16, I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice… Is that you?  Are you listening to the voice of your Shepherd?  A critical part of contending prayer is listening and responding to God’s voice.
  • Write prayers out. This might also feel funny if you’ve never done it before, but writing (or typing) a prayer to God can help overcome many of the challenges that Tozer pointed out. Silent, private prayer can often degrade from prayer to thought, and thinking is not the same as praying. Let’s be honest: it’s also easy to get distracted or doze off. A pen or keyboard keeps your mind focused.  It also allows for a record of the movement of God within your soul and within your heart.  Mental ink fades so quickly, I have been so very encouraged when I read through past journals and see on paper or on a screen a summary of contending in prayer.
We must contend, PCC!  Our times are too grave and the battle we are in is too fierce to walk through life with a haphazard, paltry prayer life.  Beyond these three suggestions, how do you keep your prayer life vibrant and strong? 

I look forward to gathering this weekend!