John Wesley on Prayer Lesson 51

*Prayer as a Useful Pastime

Let your speech always be with grace.

Colossians 4:6 NASB

Our times of taking food are usually times of conversation. It is natural to refresh our minds while we refresh our bodies. One hopes the subjects of conversation would be harmless, modest, true, and kind, with no talebearing, backbiting, or evil-speaking. But it must also be good: good in itself and on a good subject. You must indeed speak of worldly things, otherwise you may as well go out of this world. But it should be only so far as is needful, then return to a better subject. Secondly, the conversation must be useful to build up either the speaker, the listeners, or both: Lift them up in faith, or love, or holiness. Thirdly, see that it gives not only entertainment, but in one way or another, ministers grace to the hearers. This is “a more excellent way” than mere harmlessness.

But we cannot always be intent upon business; both our minds and bodies require relaxation. Diversions are of various kinds, and which are “more excellent” for a Christian? A diversion may be indifferent in itself yet the surroundings be irreverent, base and vile, or with such a tendency. Even innocent pastimes may be superceded by those which are useful as well as innocent, such as visiting the sick, poor, the widows, and fatherless. Or by the reading of useful subjects and by prayer, the most useful of all pastimes, and indeed “a more excellent way.”

*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

In this fifty-first lesson on prayer, Wesley centers in on words of grace in our conversations. He lays out three principles to follow in our refreshing conversations with others. First, “one hopes the subjects of conversation would be harmless, modest, true, and kind, with no talebearing, backbiting, or evil-speaking. But it must also be good: good in itself and on a good subject.

“Secondly, the conversation must be useful to build up either the speaker, the listeners, or both: Lift them up in faith, or love, or holiness.

“Thirdly, see that it gives not only entertainment, but in one way or another, ministers grace to the hearers. This is “a more excellent way” than mere harmlessness.”

The apostle Paul, in writing to the Philippians, brings out this same sentiment in chapter 4, verses 4-9, where he writes:

 “4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (NASB).

Grace in our speech, brings peace; not only to ourselves, but to those with whom we are speaking.

Proverbs 2:11-17 tells us what happens when we lose our discretion and listen to words filled with deceit and fall in with evil doers:

11Discretion will guard you, Understanding will watch over you, 12To deliver you from the way of evil, From the man who speaks perverse things; 13From those who leave the paths of uprightness To walk in the ways of darkness; 14Who delight in doing evil And rejoice in the perversity of evil; 15Whose paths are crooked, And who are devious in their ways; 16To deliver you from the strange woman, From the adulteress who flatters with her words; 17That leaves the companion of her youth And forgets the covenant of her God;”

Wesley echoes this as he ends with, “But we cannot always be intent upon business; both our minds and bodies require relaxation. Diversions are of various kinds, and which are “more excellent” for a Christian? A diversion may be indifferent in itself yet the surroundings be irreverent, base and vile, or with such a tendency. Even innocent pastimes may be superceded by those which are useful as well as innocent, such as visiting the sick, poor, the widows, and fatherless. Or by the reading of useful subjects and by prayer, the most useful of all pastimes, and indeed “a more excellent way.”

Published by doctorpaddy

An ordained minister, Christian communicator, and educator.

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