Paul’s final instructions to this group have to do with their mouths. Not just their words with each other but with God too.
“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). Jesus Himself said this to His disciples. Paul doesn’t expressly state this in our reading but we see it manifest in his instructions.
Paul calls his readers to “continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (verse 2). First of all is the encouragement to be in prayer. Not just once in a while or when things start to go bad but to continue in prayer. This doesn’t mean that you stay in your “prayer closet” all day but that you adopt an attitude of communication with God throughout your day.
The second part of this prayer deals with the type of prayer you are sending up. Have you ever spent time with someone who constantly wants something from you but never has a kind word to say about what you are doing for them? It gets old REALLY fast! The “What have you done for me lately” attitude. God hates that as much as we do. He loves to help us but He also appreciates it when we recognize what He is doing on our behalf and give Him thanks. Paul reminds us that our prayers need to include a thankful heart.
Paul also asks his readers to remember him in prayer. Most people would be surprised by the direction he is asking them to seek God on his behalf. He isn’t asking them to pray for his release or even better treatment from his captors. He is asking them to pray that more avenues are open for him to share the gospel. He is in prison for that very thing, yet he is asking for more opportunities to engage in that very act. He is also asking for the Holy Spirit to put the right words in his mouth when those opportunities present themselves. I believe that was one prayer God was more than happy to receive!
We move now from communication with God to communication with our fellow man. Paul focuses on interactions with those outside the body specifically. He has already spoken of interactions between believers.
“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:15-18). We are not to hide from the world but to “walk in wisdom towards outsiders, making the best use of the time” verse 5).
We have an amazing story to share with those who are not believers but we can’t do that if we aren’t listening to the Spirit as we do it. The Holy Spirit brings opportunities for us to share Jesus but if what is coming out of our mouth is NOT reflective of Him we may have the opposite effect on those we want to share Jesus with. No one will believe God is love when His “virtues” are extolled by someone whose speech is laced with hate. Our lives speak louder than our words in most cases. Your talk needs to match your walk.
One of the best ways to do this is to develop a grateful heart. As we talked about earlier, focus on the praise instead of the problem. This will fill your prayer life with thanksgiving and overflow into your daily life too. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt” (verse 6a). Not an instant easy task but a necessary one in adopting an attitude of gratitude.
The final piece of this verse gives a great “why” for this difficult task; “so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (verse 6b). When our heart is filled with His presence, hearing the words He has for us to share with others becomes a lot easier. He doesn’t have to shout to be heard. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. His words flow out your mouth when His presence fills you up.
Father God, I need more of Your presence in me every day. My mouth doesn’t always reflect You. I need to spend more time with You in my normal day. I want to have Your love flowing out my mouth all the time.
I blew it again today when I got frustrated. My words of complaint were hurtful. Please forgive me and help me have a more understanding attitude with my husband. His cognitive processes are slowing and he isn’t able to plan the way I can. He reacts moment to moment as his mind focuses on his needs. I have to recognize this and adapt to it instead of complaining because he didn’t think of it earlier when it was convenient. Forgive me God for not seeing it earlier and for voicing my frustration. THANK YOU for showing it to me now! Help me walk in wisdom with him with each new change. Thank You for that wisdom.