For the last several verses, the apostle Paul has been breaking down for us what it means to be made new in Christ and how that should affect our day to day lives. As we get ready for the preaching of the Word this Sunday, I want to take a few minutes to meditate on Paul’s words in Colossians 4:2-4 as he instructs his readers to be steadfast and watchful in their prayers.
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving”
Numerous times in the New Testament we see Paul write about praying steadfastly, or praying without ceasing (see Ephesians 1:16, Romans 1:9). Does this mean that we are expected to be on our knees day and night, praying endlessly and doing nothing else? Of course not. I would argue that what Paul is encouraging and exemplifying is having a posture of prayer at all times so that as we go about our day our hearts and minds are focused on our thankfulness to God and dependence on Him.
Paul also adds an instruction to be watchful in prayer. The general meaning of the word “watchful” is simply to be awake or alert. If we look at the gospel of Matthew, we can read the account of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. While He was praying, the disciples fell asleep and He said to them, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Matt. 26: 40b-41a, ESV). Just like the disciples, we should all heed this warning. An important practical implication we should take away from these verses is a reminder to be watchful in our own prayer life, so we do not fall into temptation.
Just imagine for a moment that rather than being watchful over our prayer life we were talking about being watchful over our family when they are in danger. How would you handle that responsibility? Would you simply sit down and fall asleep, not taking the threat seriously? I assume for most of us the answer would be, “no, of course not!” We would stand prepared, thinking through an intentional plan to keep our family members safe and doing everything within our power to protect them from harm. Now, think about how you protect yourself from the evil and harm caused by sin. Does your strategy look the same? If it does not, how can we change our strategy? What are some practical ways that we can be watchful in our prayer life? Paul gives two answers to this question. First, give thanks always. Have a heart filled with gratitude for all that the Lord has done. Second, be alert and pray for specific needs, for yourself and for others.
Now, the question is what specific things should we pray for? While the Bible is filled with many examples of specific prayers that Christians can and should pray, Paul’s focus in these next verses is praying particularly for those who are in ministry, preaching and teaching the Word of God.
“At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison - that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.”
In these verses, Paul is urging the saints at Colossae to not forget about the faithful ministers of God’s Word when they are praying. It can often be easy when we sit down to pray to give attention only to those things that affect us personally, and while we certainly should pray for those things, Paul’s instruction should remind us to pray also for our pastors. More specifically, we should be praying for the pastors at our local church. We should pray that God would open a door for the preaching and teaching of the Word. In Matthew Henry’s commentary on the book of Colossians, he elaborates that we can pray even more specifically that God
would “either afford
It is my hope that as we all prepare for this Sunday that we would take the time to consider the specific needs around us for which we should pray, that we would give thanks to God, and that we would lift up our pastors and pray for opportunity, courage, and faithfulness in the preaching of God’s word.