“Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2 CSB)
Staying alert in prayer may sound easy, but anyone who has tried knows better. The disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before the crucifixion of Jesus discovered that it is easier said than done. In observation of this Jesus said to His disciples, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Staying alert and focused in prayer is, in fact, not at all easy. Some thoughts run screaming across your mind like a child throwing a tantrum and demanding your undivided attention, while other thoughts may plow through your mind like a rooting hog. Still other thoughts can drop by to just “hang out” for a while.
Satan does not like it when we pray, so he will do whatever he can to try to distract us. Often that has to do with thoughts pointed in directions other than God, and sometimes it has to do with the actions of others when you are trying to pray.
This is why the key to staying alert and focused in prayer is found in the word “devote.” To have an effective prayer time and to stay focused during that time requires that you set aside, or devote a time when you can do this. A sufficient quantity of time has to be set aside so that the quality of that time can be established. You also have to take whatever measures are possible to ensure the fewest possible distractions. This means that a particular place needs to be found where you will have the least amount of interruptions. When those random thoughts then begin to show up, you then need to be intentional at identifying them and then bringing them “captive” to Christ. One measure you can also take is to identify one by one all the things that you want to thank God for. Giving thanks to God for one thing in your life leads to thoughts about other things in your life you can thank God for, and that then helps you to remain alert and focused in prayer.
Father, Help us to recognize that there is one who does not want us to pray and, when we pray, wants to throw us off track. Help us to learn how to pray and stay alert through thanksgiving. Amen.