Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 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. Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. – Colossians 4:2-6.
Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts, with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you all things which are happening here. – Colossians 4:7-9.
Never underestimate the power of speech. Whether the communication is oral or written, there is great power in words.
A judge says a few words, and a man’s life is saved or condemned. A doctor speaks a few words, and a patient either rejoices ecstatically or gives up in despair. I have heard it said that for every word in Adolph Hitler’s book Mein Kampf, 125 persons lost their lives in World War II.
The power of speech is a gift from God, and it must be used the way God ordains. In the Book of James, the tongue is compared to a bridle and a rudder, a fire and a poisonous animal, and a fruitful tree and a fountain (James 3). These three pairs of pictures teach us that the tongue has the power to direct, the power to destroy, and the power to delight. The tongue is but a little member in our bodies, but it can accomplish great things for good or for evil.
We’re going to point out the four most important ministries of speech as Paul wrote in this letter. Praying is the first:
“Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us.”
Prayer and worship are perhaps the highest uses of the gift of speech. Paul was not ashamed to ask his friends to pray for him. Even though he was an apostle, he needed prayer support for himself and his ministry. If a great Christian like Paul felt the need for prayer support, how much more do you and I need this kind of spiritual help! In these few words, Paul described the characteristics of a satisfying and spiritual prayer life.
First, our praying must be FAITHFUL. He writes, “Continue earnestly in prayer.” This means, “Be steadfast in your prayer life; be devoted; don’t quit.” This is the way the early church prayed (see Acts 1:14; 2:46). Too many of us pray only occasionally – when we feel like it, want something from God, or when there is a crisis. “Pray without ceasing” is God’s command to us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Notice this is not written as a suggestion. This does not mean that we should walk around muttering prayers under our breath. Rather, it means we should be constantly in fellowship with God so that prayer is as normal to us AS breathing.
This is not to suggest that God is reluctant to answer prayer and that we must “wear Him out” by our praying. Quite the opposite is true: God enjoys answering our prayers. But He sometimes delays the answer to increase our faith and devotion and to accomplish His purposes at the right time. God’s delays are not always God’s denials. As we continue in prayer, our own hearts are prepared for the answer God will give, whatever the answer may be. We find ourselves growing in grace even before His answer comes.
Our praying must also be WATCHFUL, this is what is meant by “vigilant.” We must be awake and alert as we pray. The phrase “Watch and pray!” is used often in the Bible. It had its beginning in Bible history when Nehemiah was rebuilding the walls and gates of Jerusalem:
“Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them [the enemy] we set a watch against them day and night.” – Nehemiah 4:9.
There is no power in dull, listless praying. If there is no fire on the altar, the incense will not rise to God (Psalm 141:2). Real praying demands spiritual energy and alertness, and this can come only from the Holy Spirit of God. Routine prayers are unanswered prayers.
Our praying should also be THANKFUL. Watch, be alert, and be vigilant “with thanksgiving.” Thanksgiving is an important ingredient in successful praying (Philippians 4:6). If all we do is ask, and never thank God for His gifts, we are selfish and self-centered. That is most definitely the opposite of love, of which we are to give God our all. Sincere gratitude to God is one of the best ways to put fervor and effectiveness into our praying.
There is always so much to be thankful for! Throughout Colossians Paul has placed great emphasis on thanksgiving (Colossians 1:3, 12; 2:7; 3:15, 17; and of course in 4:2). When we recall that Paul was a prisoner when he wrote this letter, it makes this emphasis even more wonderful.
Finally, our praying ought to be PURPOSEFUL. “Praying also for us.” Too often our prayers are vague and general. “Lord, bless the missionaries!” How much better it would be if we would pray for specific needs. Praying specifically is what leads us to “effectual, fervent prayer.” – James 5:16. By doing so, we would know when God answered and we could praise Him for it and then also give appropriate thanks. Perhaps it is our lack of faith that causes us to pray generally instead of specifically, which is something that we should all consider.
It has well been said that the purpose of prayer is not to get man’s will done in heaven, but to get God’s will done on earth. Prayer is not telling God what to do or what to give. Prayer is asking God for that which He wants to do and give, according to His will (1 John 5:14–15). As we read the Word and fellowship with our Father, we discover His will and then boldly ask Him to do what He has planned and when knowing His will, we can then pray specifically, with purpose. Richard Trench (1807–1886), archbishop of Dublin, said it perfectly:
“Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance; it is laying hold of His willingness.”
Of course, it is possible to pray in our hearts and never use the gift of speech (1 Samuel 1:13); but we are using words even if we don’t say them audibly. True prayer must first come from the heart, whether the words are spoken or not.
Many of Paul’s prayer were prayed while he was a prisoner for the Gospel. The following are just some of the examples you can follow up on if your desire; (Philippians 1:9–11; Ephesians 1:15–23; 3:14–21; Colossians 1:9–12). I have personally found that studying and reading prayers from other Christians, has benefitted my prayer life and my relationship with the Lord greatly.