Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.

Colossians 4:2, HCSB

I know I’ve said it before, but we really are a funny people.

It’s ironic that my country celebrates a national holiday devoted to giving thanks for what we have, then finishes the day off with a commercial holiday in which many retail businesses sell enough merchandise to shift their financial ledgers from red to black (from loss to profit).

“Black Friday” doesn’t even start on Friday anymore, people! Let that one sink in a moment. Evidently, in this nation of wealth and abundance, we can’t even spend nine or ten daylight hours in a state of gratitude and contentment.

I could pick on the fact that, if you were to create a linear graph, you’d probably find the increasing secularization of the good old USA has follows an inverse linear curve to the gradual encroachment of retail sales into Thanksgiving day. I suppose if you’re offering gratitude to an ambiguous nothingness as opposed to acknowledging God as the Provider to Whom we give thanks, there’s really less of a reason to devote an entire day… but I won’t pick on this one.

Instead, I’ll pick on me.

In a recent reading of Colossians in my late Pappaw’s NASB Bible, chapter 4 verse 2 in the NASB grabbed me by the throat. It hasn’t really let go since.

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving…

Colossians 4:2, NASB

Devote yourselves to prayer… with an attitude of thanksgiving.

As a sinner saved by the unmerited grace of the God I once denounced and by the sacrifice of Yeshua Messiah whom I formerly laughed off as a fable, my whole being really should resonate with thanksgiving. I’ve been forgiven for denying the One who loved me enough to take the death sentence I deserve for my crimes!

For this alone, I ought to have gratitude to God in all circumstances. All of them. Period. After all, no matter what happens to me in the 80-odd years (give or take) I spend on this atmosphere-cushioned ball of rock and water, I’ve been granted an eternal life that I don’t deserve during which I will forever revel in the joy of the King of kings!

But beyond that unimaginable gift, my King has also granted me food, shelter, healthy kids, a loving husband… and the list goes on and on and on. Recently, He has answered a few prayers in overwhelming ways – some of them quickly!!

Yet I’ve realized that when I pray, what I focus on is not the hundreds of granted requests, but the handful I still wait to see. My heart is weighed down by the list of lost people or bleak situations who show no glimmers of interest in the Lord, no hopeful sparks of light.

I focus, not on the abundance God has lavished on me, but on the concerns I’ve yet to see resolved.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of walking with a long-time close friend, and she mentioned how we are both seeing God at work now in both people and situations we fervently prayed together over for years.

During some of the darkest times we shared with each other, lifting up our families in prayer, we never even saw so much as the twitch of God’s finger. His hands remained – almost maddeningly – still.

But now… Yesterday, we both walked and gave thanks together for the many ways we’ve recently seen Him moving in those very same situations.

And so, my friends, not only this week, but from here on out, I am resolved to keep track of the ways I see my God at work, both in the large and the small ways.

I am resolved (Lord help me to keep this commitment!!) to devote myself to prayer with an attitude of thanksgiving, looking forward with gratitude to see how my King is mighty to redeem even the most damaged, hardened, and imprisoned heart.

Will you join me?

A Foothold

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
(Colossians 4:2)

Some weeks are just… funky. Take this week, for instance. Coming off of a several-week stretch of absolutely ridiculous fatigue, I finally woke up on Monday and felt, if not exactly rested, at least functional.

And it was a pretty productive day. In fact, between Monday and Tuesday, I managed to get through the usual homeschooling, parenting, and home management details plus finish correcting formatting errors on my manuscript, do some preliminary research on what I need to do in terms of putting together a book proposal, and started revising my chapter summary in hopes of gaining some publisher or agent’s attention.

On top of that, I was able to finish a project I’ve been working on as a gift (which I can say nothing more about on the off chance that the intended recipient stops by). I even had some excellent walks and talks with my Heavenly Father – something I have badly missed this school year but am now able to do again thanks to my son’s new status as a driver.

Yet, I could think of nothing useful to write about.

I suppose that keeping any sort of record of my faith journey is bound to have spells like this. Sometimes, I simply feel like there is nothing new to say. At other times, the things God is showing me through my time in His word or prayer just takes time and meditation before it can be distilled into words.

Still other times, I have one of those extremely mild but extremely annoying little “migraine-ish” headaches that does little more than scatter my thoughts and crumble my motivation. At times like that, writing becomes something very like trying to leash train a cat.

The Miscreant enjoying his walk

At times like this, I suppose the thing to do is to persist. Write something down anyway. Drag the dead weight if I must.

Actually, it’s a lot like prayer…

In his letter to the Colossian church, Paul admonishes them to “continue steadfastly in prayer.”

This is a reminder I recently needed. After all, sometimes God answers prayer in immediate, very specific, and exciting ways. At such times it is a thrill to be a part of His work, and the natural overflow is one of thanksgiving and praise.

But other times…

Well, other times remind me of Abraham. When he first met God, his name was Abram, and he was told to take his household and move to “the land that I [God] will show you.”  (See Genesis 12:1)

Not long afterwards, the Lord told Abram that He would give all the land his eyes could see to Abram and his children (Genesis 13:14-18). At this point, the man was childless, yet he did as the Lord said. Eventually, when Abram was 99, the Lord revealed Himself to Abram as El Shaddai – the Almighty God – and changed his name from Abram (exalted father) to Abraham (father of a multitude). You can read about that in Genesis 17, and there is a lot more to say about the story than time allows (especially since I am now trying to squeeze this post in when there are a half-dozen other tasks awaiting me).

For now, suffice to say that Abraham died before God’s promise was fulfilled, owning only the cave that he and his wife were buried in (see Genesis 23:19-20 and 25:9).  And yet, we are told that, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:3 et al).

The promise may not have been completely fulfilled in Abraham’s lifespan, but he did die with a sort of foothold on the Promised Land. And eventually, of course, his offspring did possess the land.

I tend to think Abraham may have been a teensy bit more self-focused than me. You see, he believed God and persisted in his relationship to the Lord no matter what. I have to admit that I have been known to throw a bit of a temper tantrum to my Father, along the lines of, “You promised that if I asked certain things that I know to be within Your will, they would happen. Where are they?”

Yeah, it’s a little embarrassing on my part.

The truth is, God does fulfill His promises; but not in my time and my way. Maybe Abraham knew this, which is why he was so willing to march up Moriah with his son, a knife, and a bundle of firewood. He knew God would deliver on the promise, even  if it was in some convoluted way that Abraham could not see. Maybe, to Abraham, a foothold was assurance enough.

So, whatever it is you are praying for, if you are certain it is within the will of God (and I am speaking more of the salvation of another person or that your children will love God with all their hearts, not a new car or a better house), continue steadfastly!

But – and here is the part that I am slow to learn – continue steadfastly with thanksgiving. If we really, really believe God will do what He says He will do, why wait to thank Him when the deal is done?  I think, maybe, what I need to do more of when I persevere in prayer is to do so with gratitude already on my lips, fully confident that my God will bring it to pass.

After all, when I look at my own salvation, I see that He has already given me a foothold.

He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
(1 Thessalonians 5:24)