The apostle Paul was under guard in chains in Rome when he wrote the letter to the church in Colossae of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey about 120 miles east of Ephesus). He was concerned about the heresies that were making inroads there and sought to keep them centered on Christ. In the fourth chapter, he called for prayer: "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" (Colossians 4:2-4). We, too, need to be concerned about the deceitful philosophies of our own day that would lead us away from Christ and take heed to answer his call for prayer.
Be Earnest – be diligent in prayer (Luke 18:1). Be devoted to prayer. Persevere and continue in prayer (Rom. 12:12). Never give up on prayer; never quit praying (1 The. 5:17). I pray all the time, but I knew one preacher who said it was just a psychological exercise. Prayer to God is our access to the greatest source of power (Jam. 5:16). It acknowledges our complete dependence upon God and demonstrates our faith in Him to provide all things good and needful (Mat. 7:7-11; 1 Cor. 4:7; Jam. 1:17). To give up on prayer is to give up on God.
Be Vigilant – be watchful, alert, on guard in prayer (1 Pet. 5:8; Mat. 6:13). Beware and awake to the dangers of temptation and sin. Some close their eyes to this reality of life. They are blind to what is really happening in their marriage, with their children, in our nation, in the church to destroy them. When we fail to bring prayer to these things, we fail to bring God to these things.
Be Thankful – be grateful in prayer (Eph. 5:20; Phi. 4:6-7; 1 The. 5:18). Thankfulness reminds us of God’s answers in the past and assures us of His answers in the present. We must not neglect thanksgiving when looking to God for our needs.
Paul asked for prayers for himself and his fellow workers. But his request was not selfish. He asked prayers for an opportunity to tell the gospel, although he was presently being persecuted for that very thing. He would rejoice to share in the sufferings of Christ if it was necessary to save souls and glorify God. He asked prayers that he might speak clearly, plainly, convincingly, persuasively, courageously, in a way that the gospel might be understood, believed, received, obeyed, upheld, and furthered.
Prayer is a blessing and privilege God has given us to help us accomplish His will and purposes for His glory (Mat. 6:9-10, 13; Jam. 4:3; 1 John 5:14-15). This is best seen in the practice of our Lord Jesus Christ while on earth in the flesh. He constantly prayed demonstrating His dependence upon His heavenly Father. In the garden before going to the cross we especially see His earnestness, vigilance, and unselfishness in prayer, while His disciples kept falling asleep (Mat. 26:36-46). It was that night in prayer that Jesus won the battle against the flesh so that He went to the cross with courage, faith, and determination to do His Father’s will. Let us never take prayer for granted but follow Christ’s example, that we, too, might accomplish God’s will for us (1 Pet. 2:21-25).
In 1 Timothy 2:1-7, Paul instructs us to pray “first of all” (v. 1). The first thing and the most powerful thing we can do is to pray. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). Paul tells us how to pray, who to pray for and why we need to pray.
How? Pray with “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks” (v. 1).
Who? Pray “for all men, for kings and all who are in authority” (vv. 1b-2a).
Why? Pray “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (v. 2b) and for “all men to be saved” because “Jesus… gave Himself a ransom for all” (vv. 3-7).
God, our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. We lift Your name above all others and seek only Your glory. We praise You for Your daily blessings, Your care and watch over us all. We thank You for the salvation and hope that is found in Your Son Jesus Christ, for Your tremendous love for us in sending Him and for the sacrifice He made for us. We are also grateful that You have brought us all together, those of us from every race or nationality, from every place and language, from many different backgrounds, to make us one in the body of Christ, Your church, bound by a common faith and love for the Lord Jesus.
God wants us to pray to Him. He promises to hear and to answer our prayers. He is always ready, willing and able to answer our prayers. He will always give us good things (Matthew 7:7-11; James 1:17). Yet, sometimes it may seem that God does not hear us. When that happens remember that the problem is not with God but with us.
It could be that you are not right with God. The psalmist wrote, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear” (Psalms 66:18). You must have regard for God, not sin. If your heart is set on sin you have forfeited God’s blessings. If you stubbornly refuse to listen to Him, He will not listen to you. Isaiah warned Israel, “Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2). It was not that God was unable to deliver Israel, nor that He had a hearing problem, but rather that Israel in their sinfulness had rebelled and gone after other gods. God will not answer your prayers if you harden your heart and reject Him.
Yes, God encourages us to come to Him for all our needs. He promises to listen to us when we ask and He promises to answer our requests. He gives generously and will never scold us for asking. You can always count on Him for every good and perfect gift.
Read it for yourself in the Bible: Matthew 7:7-11; John 14:13; Hebrews 4:14-16; James 1:2-5, 16-17; 5:16-18; 1 John 5:14-15.
Some of you may be wondering, “Why, then, do I not see this in my life? Where are God’s blessings?” The problem is never with God. It is with us. Open your heart to this teaching from James 1:5-8.
Robert Dodson is the Preaching Minister for the Northwest Church of Christ.
6059 Azle Avenue
Fort Worth, TX 76135