Wednesday, February 4, 2009

How devoted is "devoted" to prayer?

The New Testament expects Christians to be "devoted to prayer":

"These [the apostles] all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer..." (Acts1:14)

"They [new Christians] were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching, and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts2:42)

"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, give preference to one another in honour, not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer....." (Rom12:10-12)

The question is what does "devoted" mean? Of course we can look up a dictionary but that just tells us what someone who wrote a dictionary thinks. We need to look for other places the New Testament itself uses the word to understand what God thinks.

Here's some examples of how the Greek word (the New Testament was written in Greek originally) translated "devoted / devoting" above is translated elsewhere in the New Testament:

"Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple and breaking bread from house to house they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart...." (Acts2:46)

".......he (a Roman centurion)  summoned two of his servants and a devout soldier of those who were in constant attendance upon him..." (Acts10:7)

"Even Simon himself believed and after being baptized he continued on with Philip....." (Acts8:13)

"And He told His disciples that a boat should stand ready for Him because of the crowd, so that they would not crowd Him....." (Mark3:9)

The bold words in these references are from the same Greek word that has been translated "devoted / devoting" in the prayer references.  We can start to see that when the New Testament writers say "devoted" to something they mean to be day by day "continuing" in it, to be in "constant attendance" to it. I particularly like the last reference (Mark3:9). The boat was to be set aside for Jesus. It was to have no other purpose except to be available to him. It was to be "devoted" to Him. 

So what would the prayer pattern of someone "devoted to prayer" look like in practice?

Lets consider first what it wouldn't look like. I think we would agree for example that just participating in prayers during church on a Sunday or the quick giving of thanks before a meal or praying only when a crisis looms wouldn't constitute "devotion" to prayer.

By contrast the apostle Paul could say that he prayed "night and day" for Timothy (2TIm1:3) and the Christians in Thessalonica (1Thess3:10) and that he "unceasingly" made mention of the Christians in Rome in his prayers (Rom1:9,10). Epaphras was described as one who "laboured earnestly" in prayer (Col4:12).  Jesus Himself would "get up while still dark" to pray (Mk1:35), would "slip away to the wilderness to pray" (Lk5:16) and even went off to a mountain and "spent the whole night in prayer" in Luke 6:12.

When we put all this together we get a pretty good picture of what being "devoted" to prayer looks like.

And why wouldn't we be devoted to prayer when you consider what prayer is? 

It is communing with a God who is ABLE to do all things for his children (Eph3:20), who WANTS to do all things for them (Rom8:32) and who WILL do all things for those who ask (1Jn5:14,15)

Why wouldn't we be devoted to prayer when it is the opportunity to thank God for the "indescribable gift" (2Cor9:15) of His Son. 

Why wouldn't we be devoted to prayer when it is the opportunity to do things for each other far beyond what we could possibly do for them ourselves? (Jas5:16).

"Pray without ceasing" (1Thess5:17)