Recently, I was chatting with a friend who has an aging parent. The last doctor’s appointment seemed to indicate some serious concern for her mother’s health. My friend decided to go to the next appointment to make sure she was clear what next steps the family might need to make with regards to decision making and care for her mother.
I was expecting that this friend would be discouraged after the appointment so I figured I would reach out, ready to be of some encouragement. But I was surprised at her response to the appointment.
They went in together, the doctor reiterated for both of them, at the same time, the prognosis, concerns, treatment options and testing plans. But when they returned to the car, it was as though they went to two different appointments.
Her mother interpreted every point from a worst-case scenario vantage point, while the daughter saw hope in every part of the discussion. How was it possible that they both came out of the same appointment with such polar opposite impressions about what the doctor actually said.
Presupposition, preconception and preoccupation.
It’s very easy for us to go into our interactions with others almost with an agenda or a preconceived idea about what someone is going to say and to extrapolate those talking points that support that idea and remove all context. It’s extremely dangerous to do this. We can too often miss what is truly being said.
At the same time, we can do this overly optimistically, and miss the point the opposite way.
Paul in Colossians has an interesting admonition when it comes to presupposing and preconceiving when we pray.
Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2 KJV
A friend told me recently about purchasing a fidget spinner in the airport to use up the last of the foreign currency he had. Really, I just think he needed something to occupy his time on the long flight home.
We need to be busy! Something about idle time, free time, quiet time, just seems boring and unproductive. There is a whole industry out there to solve the problem for us on our phones, on portable screens, and the fidget gadgets.
But Paul admonishes the Colossians to “preoccupy themselves diligently” (continue) by calling on God. By praying. I wonder how much more productive we would be if we took seriously Paul’s admonition. How many mistakes we might avoid in a day, how many poor decisions we would make, how many hasty responses we would prevent throughout our day if we occupied more of our time of the day in prayer.
But Paul went one step further. Not only did his exhortation challenge the Colossian believers (and us) to preoccupy themselves in diligent prayer, but he specifically encourages them to be “watchful” or “mindful” as they prayed about those things which they should be thankful for.
Ever notice in the “prayer and praise” times, the time committed to prayer needs and issues are the overwhelming majority of how the time is spent. In fact, often we skip praise and thanksgiving all together. Even when we specifically ask for them, it seems hard to come up with anything to give praise and thanksgiving for. Is there really nothing? Or are we so preoccupied in our minds, even in our prayer, that we aren’t watching for the ways God has answered those requests as He answers them.
Paul seems to say, pay better attention. Notice when God answers a prayer and give thanks.
How would our prayer life, our relationship with God, how we perceive Him change if instead of using our time of prayer consumed with asking for things, we focused at least equal time on how He answered already. What if the imbalance of time was in favor of thanking Him, maybe for things we saw and didn’t even pray for. Would it change our attitude about prayer? Would it change our perception of God?
Approaching God continuously, habitually with this optimistic preoccupation about what He has done and what He can do would change how we perceived God, and how we perceive He will answer. Surely, approaching our time of prayer with presuppositions of how He has been faithful in answering in the past will give us more optimism and faith in the future.
Dr. Ronald J. Barnes, Jr.
President / CEO
May 17, 2022