Steadfast Prayer…What Does This Mean?

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“Continue steadfastly in prayer…” (Colossians 4:2). This is the first clause in today’s verse. It is a powerful message for us in our everyday lives. We understand its intent, but we have trouble figuring how to do it, how to develop the habits of prayer so that they become a “steadfast” part of our daily lives. God does not ask us to do what is beyond our ability. We can learn how to do this in simple, everyday ways. And it will make all the difference for us.

Prayer is an attitude above all. It arises out of a humble recognition of our need for God. It is a basic, very human desire to be in relationship with the One “in whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). When we come to know and to believe in Jesus, we quite naturally want to have a personal relationship with him. Prayer becomes, not just a desire then, but a need. And it is in prayer that we establish that relationship.

Our prayer first finds its roots in thanksgiving. That is the second clause in today’s verse: “Being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” When we begin to have that personal relationship with God, we begin to see that he is the source of all that is good, true, and beautiful in our lives. We see, too, that he is our model for how we are to live with him, and for him, in our love for one another. We know, too, that we are weak, that we need his help. As our relationship with him grows, we see that he is constantly making his graces available to us in our need. We gradually come to see that he is our strength in times of trouble. He gives us hope when things are looking impossible. He never abandons us. For all of this, we have every reason to develop the steadfast practice of prayer in thanksgiving.

Of course, all habits are the result of repeated actions. Like all good habits, the habit of prayer arises from practice. We can develop this habit of prayer by making a commitment to start and end our days in solitude and quiet prayer. Maybe that means setting the alarm clock fifteen or twenty minutes earlier and using those first moments of our day to thank God for giving us a new day in which to live in accord with his way of love. We might offer our day up to God, ask him to walk with us during our day. You could start with a quiet recitation of a favorite psalm. The point is to do it regularly until it becomes a habitual part of your day. You might even say an internal prayer at the beginning of your work day when you arrive at your place of work. In this way you can begin to think of your work, and all that it entails, as your share in the sacred work of God. How might that change your attitude about your work? At night, before going to sleep, take time to quietly reflect on your day. Go over in your mind the events and people that were a part of it. Give thanks to God for all the good things, small and large, that happened during the day. You’ll see that this doesn’t take long, but that it tends to give your day the importance that it deserves. It changes your attitude about it. Ask forgiveness for any faults or failures, small or large, that may have been a part of your day. His love and his mercy are ever faithful. In doing this regularly, God becomes the Alpha and Omega of your day. What happens then is that you find yourself thinking of God at surprising moments in your day in between that morning and evening prayer. Now, you are beginning to be steadfast in your prayers.

Lord, teach me to pray. Help me to hear your whispered invitation to prayer throughout my day. You are my all, my everything. You are the One who brings light into the darkness and who gives me hope. My heart yearns to be in relationship with you. May I always find reasons to pray in your name, Jesus. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.