If there is a discipline in which many Christians say they fall short, it would most likely be their prayer life. A study revealed that in 2007, some 58% of us adults prayed daily. In 2014 that went down to 55%, and in a more recent survey, it has gone down to 45%. Why might this be the case? In his book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes, “You will never have time for prayer; you must make time.” Time! Is your prayer life sporadic? Have you ever used the lack of time as a reason? Once again, Richard Foster writes, “If you are too busy to read, you are too busy.” We could apply that to prayer as well, don’t you think? Martin Luther once said, “To pray well is the better half of study.” As you might have guessed, prayer is our focus today.
Paul has covered many topics in this brief letter, each intended to help these young Christians in their stance against false teachers and give them insight into what it means to embrace the transformation process. Such effort by Paul was not to give some idea that they could somehow gain redemption. All this was “because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you” (Col. 1:5-6a). His exhortations continue now, inviting them to take full advantage of this disciple called prayer.
“Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving….”
The apostle Paul spoke of how they were “praying always for” (1:3) the Christians in Colosse. And, how they did “not cease to pray for” (1:9) them. The first was to thank God for their conversion to Christ (1:3-8), and the other was to ask God to help them grow spiritually (1:9-11). He encourages them to be people of prayer and “continue earnestly in prayer.” The NIV says, “devote yourselves to prayer.” The Greek word “continue earnestly” means to persist, persevere in, continue steadfast in. In Luke 18:1-8, we find Jesus teaching the subject of prayer in the parable of the persistent widow. Listen to the first verse, “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart….” Prayer helps the believer not to lose heart. Such appeals are numerous within our Bibles: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication…” (Philippians 4:6), “continuing steadfastly in prayer” (Romans 12:12), “pray without ceasing” (1st Thessalonians 5:17) are just a couple. In Ephesians 6:10-20, the apostle Paul encourages his readers to “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (v11). Armor is generally defensive. But he does speak of going on the offensive by using “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17) The very next verse catches my attention, “…praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18). Could it be that prayer is a sort of offensive weapon? We know it has power (James 5:16). Is that why Paul spoke of it so often in his letters? He knew of its power and wanted them to tap into it.
“.…meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the
mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.”
Before I consider the above verse, let me say something about the idea of being vigilant. The ETRV translates that part of the verse this way, “Be ready for anything by praying and being thankful.” Could it be that the challenges we face in this world at times catch us off guard simply because we forget to pray? Think about it. As you do, also consider how the apostle Paul now turns their attention to the proclamation of the gospel and the role that prayer can and should have in it. He invites them to be part of his and Timothy’s ministry in sharing the gospel. How? Pray that God opens the doors for the word’s proclamation. Presently in chains, “he earnestly desires to have the liberty to preach the gospel” (Barnes). Evangelism, something we are learning about in our life group meeting right now, needs the power of prayer if it is to be successful. We go back to Ephesians 6 and find Paul not only asking them to pray “for all the saints” (v18) but also “for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel” (v19). Wow! How many of us realized the profound power of prayer in spreading the gospel?
As Paul invited them, he also asked us. Commit yourself to prayer. Be earnest and vigilant when it comes to prayer. Realize that it plays a significant role in our walk with Christ, helping us to grow in His likeness (i.e., transformation), as well as being helpful against the devil’s schemes. Be persistent! In persistence, don’t forget to be thankful. Prayer can remind us of how good God is to us all. And finally, pray that God will open doors for the gospel to be preached. And don’t forget, if you pray that doors will open, pray that He can encourage you to walk through them. Thank You, Lord, for the hope found in none other than Jesus Christ.