Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. – Colossians 4:2
I know that we are taught from childhood to pray with our eyes closed. It is intended to be a sign of reverence, focus, and submission to God. I understand that. And while that should certainly be our posture, it should not be our practice. Rather, we should pray continually with our eyes wide open. What do I mean by that?
Paul exhorts the Colossian believers to “continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it.” Paul is telling us that we should be on the lookout when we are engaged in prayer. Our eyes should be wide open to certain things. But what are they? Allow me to offer a few suggestions.
1. God’s Answer
The first thing we should be on the lookout for is God’s provision for our need. The clue is found in the last two words–“with thanksgiving.” Being thankful for what? Thankful for God hearing our prayers and answering them according to His will. Jesus says something similar to this in Mark 11:24. In the lesson of the withered fig tree, he said, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” We have great reason to be full of thanksgiving to God because he knows our needs before we ever ask Him (Matt. 6:32), and he is not like the wicked men who will give a stone when we ask for bread (Matt. 7:7-11). Will He who did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all not also with Him graciously give us all things? (Rom. 8:32) Ah then, our eyes must be wide open for the Father’s gracious provision with hands anticipating the reception of His abundance, with hearts abounding in thanksgiving.
2. My Unbelief
The second thing we should be on the lookout for is our unbelief. I am not talking about an explicit confession where we tell God, “I will not believe.” Rather, the manifestation of our unbelief comes in much more subtle and insidious ways. Paul tells the Colossian believers to continue steadfastly in prayer. Unbelief tells you to pray when you get around to it or only when it is deemed absolutely necessary. Our prayerlessness is an indication of functional atheism and unbelief in God, because we are communicating by our actions that we don’t need God and can live comfortably without him in a settled state of independence. Our hearts are prone to wander, prone to despair and discouragement, prone to leave the God we love.
Only those who believe in the powerful, effectual work of prayer will continue in it steadfastly. Unbelief turns prayer into a chore. Unbelief causes you to utter meaningless words to God, perhaps by repetition or routine so that your heart is completely disengaged from your lips. Unbelief turns you into a double-minded man where, in one second you pray to the omnipotent, almighty God of heaven who is for you, and in the next second lead you to question, “Does God really care? Can God really answer? What’s the use?”
When we pray, our eyes should be wide open to the unbelief in our hearts manifested in a myriad of ways. If we want to continue steadfastly in prayer, we cannot afford to have our eyes closed to the ways in which prayer becomes a meaningless ritual or exercise of lip service, approaching God as though He does not care or will not answer. Do we really believe Jesus and take Him at his word when He says things like, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:13-14)?
3. The Enemy’s Schemes
The third thing we should be on the lookout for is the devil’s schemes. When speaking to the Ephesian believers, Paul reminds us that we wrestle not with flesh and blood but against rules, authorities, cosmic powers of this present darkness, and spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places (Eph. 6:12). Consequently, we should be “praying at all times in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18). Satan, and all the forces arrayed against God’s people, tremble at the praying Christian who is full of faith and empowered by the Spirit. We should not be surprised then that the strategy of the enemy is to place obstacles, distractions, and discouragements in our path to keep us from praying to our Father in and through the victorious, strong name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
So when we pray, yes, let our posture be one where we close our eyes. But never let it be our practice! Be watchful.
Watch out for God’s answer and provision because He is faithful to His promises and good to His people.
Watch out for our unbelief because we are prone to wander and have our hearts questioning and wavering in doubt and despair.
Watch out for the enemy’s schemes who would unleash his arsenal against you in order to keep you out of the throne room of God.
Yes, keep your eyes wide open and pray to our Father whose ear is attentive to the cry of His children!