Some Lessons about Prayer
Today we finish Paul’s letter to the Church at Colossae. It has been a welcome reminder during this Christmas season who the baby was lying in the manger and how being born from above through his work on the cross grants us the power to “put to death” that which is of the world and flesh and “put on” Jesus Christ and the virtues that are ours through the powerful working of his Spirit within us. Let us set our minds on the realities above.
This devotion covers the last part of the letter which is taken up primarily with closing items. But even so, there is much here to consider. Paul says, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it.” Jesus told his disciples to “watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Mark 14:38). To “watch” means to be alert, on guard, standing by with both eyes open. When combined with prayer, it means to pray with purpose and intent. Paul asks the Colossians to pray for him and those with him that “God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ.” Epaphras prays for the Colossians that they “may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.” Please notice the content of these prayers – prayers for ministry and maturity, for knowing and doing the will of God – not a laundry list of “felt” needs. And then there is the way Paul describes heartfelt prayer with regards to Epaphras, who is “always struggling on your behalf in his prayers,” so that the Colossians “may stand mature…” as we noted above. Did you hear that? Epaphras “struggles” in his prayers! This indicates that prayer is not a tipping of our hats to God in the morning and evening. When done right, prayer is wrestling, it is struggling, it is storming the gates of heaven, going boldly to the throne of grace to pray for God’s kingdom to come, for His will to be done, for growth and maturity in His grace, for boldness among His people to speak a timely word to someone who needs to hear the gospel, for searching one’s heart in sincere examination and asking forgiveness of sins as we forgive others, and, yes, for the sundry needs we all have. But the point is that prayer is work.
Finally I wish to make two quick observations. Paul insists that as Christians our speech “always be gracious, seasoned with salt”; that is, a kind and well-spoken word, but one that does not shrink back from telling the truth, for which we should never apologize. And, second, notice that Paul writes all of this from prison. Paul did not let circumstances dictate his mission. He was an apostle of Jesus Christ who was called to preach the word, no matter where he was. May we be so faithful in prayer, word, and deed.