My wife, Judy, makes the best biscuits. She starts with a great recipe, but she combines that with a truly wonderful method.
She combines flour, water, milk, shortening and adds a little yeast (or uses self-rising flour). She knows the combination of the proper ingredients will produce a light, fluffy biscuit that is melt-in-your-mouth good. No one has ever duplicated her magical biscuits.
There is a recipe and a method for the kind of prayer that God likes, too. It is found in Colossians 4:2-3. It begins with persistence. We should be devoted to prayer. We must be busily engaged in prayer. Prayer is not an emergency device like many fire alarms that read, “in emergency break glass.” It is something God expects us to persistently engage in. The apostle Paul wrote, “Pray without ceasing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This is persistent prayer.
Add to persistence, vigilance. In the original language of the New Testament, Paul wrote the Colossians to “keep awake.” The King James Version reads, “watch in the same.” Prayer combined with an alert mind is an important idea. Sometimes, prayers are said without any thought. But, that is a grave mistake.
It is an alert mind engaged in prayer that helps us know what we ought to ask God, and also can help us come to realize what shortcomings and needs we really have. What better way is there to keep out of temptation’s reach than by realizing our need and asking God to meet it?
There have been too many prayers said in worship services that are nothing but “said” prayers — said without thinking. God wants us to engage our minds before we start putting our mouths “in gear.”
Then, prayer with an alert mind must be combined with thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2c). Just as dough needs to rise to make fluffy biscuits, prayer needs to be combined with thanksgiving to make our prayers rise. Look at it like this: an attitude of thankfulness shows God how much we want to please him. Sometimes our prayers don’t “get off the ground” because we’re so filled with our needs that we forget God wants us to show our gratitude (more than just once a year in November).
What follows in verse three is another interesting ingredient. We ought to pray for “open doors.” Picture the apostle sitting chained to two Romans and using this situation as a way to preach the gospel. Paul wrote the Philippians, “The whole imperial guard and everyone else knows that I am in prison for the sake of Christ,” (Philippians 1:13 NET).
Isn’t that amazing? Many people sit around and complain about an inactive evangelism because there isn’t enough money. Paul, chained to Roman guards and without a dime to his name even while he wrote Colossians said, “pray for more open doors.” Paul was interested in any possible advantage to preach the gospel even while imprisoned. How many times do you hear a prayer for an open door?
Prayer combined with all these ingredients is bound to be the kind of effectual, fervent prayer James wrote about in James 5:16. It is the kind of prayer God wants us to pray: persistent, vigilant, combined with thanksgiving and a request for open doors.
With faithful prayer like this, there can be no stopping the child of God in his work for the gospel.