Knowing our King | Colossians 4:2-6 | Continue in Prayer
Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
This is the last bit of instruction Paul will leave with these believers and with those of us who have been in this epistle now for several months. He ends this very doctrinal book on a very practical note. Paul’s letters were often lofty in thought but the Holy Ghost was always sure to bring all those lofty truths down into shoe leather before the letter ends. In this letter, he is concluding with two of the most basic functions of the Christian life, Our Prayer life and Public life.
Today we will look at our Prayer life. “Continue in prayer” is the instruction. This denotes the unceasing nature of our prayer life. This is not only instructed in this book by the Apostle but is demonstrated. He began this epistle by letting them know he was “praying always for you” [1:3], Then Epaphras is said to be “always labouring fervently for you in prayers.” This is not isolated to this letter either but in so many other places we see the scripture teaching us that prayer is not something that the Christians were to do on occasion but unceasingly, “Pray without ceasing” [1Th 5:17]. In the Tabernacle there was an altar for the burning of incense, incense was offered day and night, meaning that the temple was to be continuously filled with the smell of this offering. This is the OT shadow of the spiritual sacrifice we make as priests of our God in the NT. Just as there was to be the continual sacrifice of incense poured out on the coals from the altar of God, there should be continual prayers poured out of our souls to our God. There was never a time you would enter the temple when it was not marked by the definite scent of the sacrifice of incense. So should our lives as Christians be marked by the definite graces of a continual prayer life. One Puritan said, “Prayer is the breath of the renewed soul, The beating of the sanctified heart, and the effect of the life of God within us!”
Then the Apostle adds “Watch in the same with thanksgiving.” The word here for watch means to stay awake. Prayer is often thought of as a sleepy affair and apparently, we are not the only people who struggle with this. Even Jesus's Apostles couldn’t watch and pray for one hour. So, there is definitely a danger of us being sleepy in the act of prayer, and this is a time when the old man, this flesh, has to be fought. We are commanded to bring our body under submission and follow the desires and cravings of the new nature. This is done in the strength of God and by faith. Just as dangerous, if not more so, than us being sleepy in the act of prayer is us being sleepy in our disposition of prayer. As the incense was to be placed upon hot coals taken from the altar of God, so should our prayers be “fervent” [Col 4:12, James 5:16]. We too often offer these “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayers and it is no wonder our lives are cold and lifeless because our prayer lives are cold and lifeless. So what do we do? I believe an answer can be found in the phrase “with thanksgiving.”
Thanksgiving is the warmness of our prayer life. Often times I have gone to prayer cold and sleepy and through the process of “thanking my God upon every remembrance”[Php 1:3] I have been brought to a fervency by the remembrance of His goodness. Like the priest in the OT would first have to go to the brazen alter and borrow some of the fire from the sacrifice before he could ever offer up the incense, s0 must we go to the offering of our Savior and gather the heat needed to offer up prayers in a right manner. No priest would ever go and pour incense on a cold altar but would first have to go and see the fire burning on the altar of sacrifice, see the blood shed to atone for sins, and be reminded that for another day their sins were covered. NT priest of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must run first to the cross of Calvary and see the price paid for our sins, run to the sacrifice of his sinless life lived 33 years on this earth. It is from the sacrifice of Christ that we borrow the heat and fervency needed to offer up effectual fervent prayers that avail much. No more cold lifeless prayer! God help us to be reminded and therefore thankful for what you have done for us! I have gone to my prayer closet like a block of ice and as my heart traveled to the finished work of Calvary, as my heart visited the empty tomb, as I became thankful, the sleep was washed from my eyes by hot tears of joy and I was able to “Labor fervently in prayer.”
Lastly, he mentions prayer should be made for them. To me, it is no coincidence the order of instruction given for prayer. That is prayer for people is named last, not because of a lack of love for the people for whom we pray but for the sake of our hearts being set in the right order before we begin to pray for others. When our heart has been set right with the Lord oftentimes our brothers and sisters are brought to our remembrance [Col 1:3]. As God places brothers and burdens on our hearts at the altar of prayer we should pray for them. Earnestly contend for them at the altar, God hears and God answers prayers. Paul asks that doors of utterance be opened, that providence will shine on them and like God open the Macedonian door for Paul, and like he opened the prison cells, he would again providentially open doors for the Gospel to go forth. Whether that meant the prison doors being opened or God opening gospel doors whilst in prison. God is very concerned with the proclamation and advancement of the gospel and a fervent prayer life will be marked by heavy Gospel burdens for gospel brethren, Do not suffocate those burdens but pour them out fervently before our God! Then he requested them to pray “That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.” Not only for providence in the Gospel ministry but power in the gospel ministry. Paul had said before that he did not come with enticing words of man's wisdom but in the power and demonstration of the Holy Ghost, and here again, he is admitting his weakness to affect men and showing his reliance upon God to do so. As we pray for providence in the gospel ministry let us also pray for power! Put us where you want us and empower us to speak and utter and make “Manifest” the gospel. The word manifest he used here is not just a presentation of the truth of the Gospel but an effectual presentation of the truth, the truth set on fire and given witness to by the Holy Ghost of God. Our prayer life should be marked by: Continuance, Watchful thanksgiving, and fervent request for providence and power in the gospel ministry. “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.”