Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
This is a really neat little passage; there’s so much to see. As Paul closes out his letter, he reminds the people to be devoted to prayer, and while this may seem routine, after all, Apostles talk about prayer a lot, Paul here seems to bring it to life. I’m always struck by the idea of prayer being “watchful and thankful.” Maybe thankful, as in giving thanks isn’t so surprising, but watchful? How often do you hear someone say that we should be watchful in our prayers?
Watchful for what? Things you want God to give you, like little favors? “Oh yes, and Father please send me that new Lexus…” something like that? Somehow I doubt it. Maybe watchful for someone who needs intercession, maybe an opening for the Gospel, maybe something that is within God’s priority system− yes that seems more like the kind of “watchful” that Paul has in mind. He continues by asking for the people to pray for him, but again, not in the way we might expect. Notice, that even though he is in prison, he didn’t ask them to pray for his release, he asked them to pray that he might preach the Gospel effectively.
I don’t know about you, but that gets my attention every time! When Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:5 ff. He taught us to pray for God’s priorities. “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” Do we remember to do that? Are we watchful for specifics that fit into this category? Well, I can only speak for myself, but truth be told, I forget or overlook this more often than I’d care to admit. Paul seems to continue in this line of thinking when he advises us to be wise when speaking to “outsiders,” non-Christians. We are to be ready to make the most of every opportunity, to show them the love of Jesus Christ: Maybe we should pray for those opportunities. We are to speak to them “with grace, seasoned with salt…” Grace is often defined as “unmerited favor” meaning that we are to deal with them in love; more love than they might deserve.
I have a little secret for you to consider: Speaking to someone with grace is not telling them that they are wrong, even if they are. It doesn’t mean calling them names, or being critical of the way they live. Yes, there is a fair chance that they live as unbelievers, but guess what? They are unbelievers, and that may be just how they are supposed to live. Our job isn’t to correct the world, it is to save the world for Christ. This requires grace, not criticism. Salt is an interesting metaphor; I’ve heard many different explanations for this, so I’ll throw out my thoughts. When we season food with salt, we add it to bring out the full flavor of the ingredients, and when we speak with grace, seasoned with salt, we are sharing the full love of God who so loved the world that He sent His Son to die to save it. We need our speech to be so full of His grace, that nobody hears the slightest little bit of condemnation come from our lips.
So, when you put this all together, maybe I should remember to pray that God will bring me opportunities, and give me the words to share, so that some may be saved. What do you think; do you need to join me in praying this way? If not, I’d love to hear why that is.