Pandemic: A Unique Opportunity for Prayer
Pray Also For Us
“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 (Colossians 4:2-3).”
In times like what we are now experiencing, I do not want to lose a sense of urgency when it comes to lifting up gospel efforts before God through the Lord Jesus Christ. While social distancing and quarantines are happening all around us, this pales in comparison to what the early church had to deal with. It is abundantly clear that the culture among the apostles and among first century churches was one of gospel urgency with the understanding that they must pray to the God of their salvation for help.
For many of my brethren at Reformed Baptist Church and in other places around the country, we have taken seriously our responsibility to share the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in very active and practical ways. Now that we are forced to slow down and distance ourselves from others, there may be a growing sense that we are useless in times like these. However, nothing could be further from the truth. This is especially true if we understand the sovereign power of our God and our great need for Him to work mightily. So then, we go before Him in prayer and we do so with urgency.
The apostle Paul often addresses the need for the church to pray, and he does this in the light of different aspects of the Christian life. He often speaks to the fact that he prays for the saints:
2Co 13:7 Now I pray to God that you do no evil, not that we should appear approved, but that you should do what is honorable, though we may seem disqualified.
Php 1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment,
Col 1:9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
The apostle directs saints to be active in their prayer lives:
1Th 5:17 pray without ceasing,
1Ti 2:8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting;
Paul also actively seeks out the prayers of the saints for himself, his fellow laborers in the gospel, and for the progression of the gospel itself:
1Th 5:25 Brethren, pray for us.
2Th 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you,
Heb 13:18 Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably.
However, in Colossians 4:2-3 Paul is speaking directly to the prayers of the saints in regard to gospel ministry. What we have here in our text is instruction from Paul to the church at Colossi both to pray concerning the gospel progression at home and abroad. Paul recognizes that the churches that he has both founded and over which he has had influence will fail outside of the providential and preserving hand of God. Therefore, it is the duty of every blood bought saint of God to enter before the Lord to ask that the gospel and its servants be aided in all their righteous endeavors.
In verse two, there is a sense of urgency in the request for the saints to pray. He has just instructed the saints at Colossi concerning their faith in the Lord Jesus, that He is the image of the invisible God, and that through Him we are reconciled to our Creator. The blood bought saints of God, realizing the preeminence of the Savior, are to serve Him sacrificially. No longer are we bound to serve this world and this flesh, but we are to be faithful servants of our new King.
With this knowledge, what are we to do? Where are we to begin? We begin with faithful devotion and communion with God through His Son. We begin with prayer.
The apostle instructs us to “continue earnestly in prayer.” These are words, I fear, that we too often ignore in the practical outworking of both our individual faith and even our corporate expressions. Sure, we pray. We even pray often. However, can it be said that we are continuing earnestly in prayer.
According to our text, we are to persistently engage in the activity of prayer. The idea being conveyed here is that we pray as a child who desires something and asks repeatedly for it. We are to devote ourselves to the activity of prayer for the purpose of gospel progression to the praise and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is very easy for each of us to get wrapped up in the daily activity and subsistence of our lives, but we must carefully cultivate and guard a sincere desire for God to get all the glory, and it is through the redemption of souls through Christ that He has chosen to glorify Himself. Our desire for preaching of the gospel and gospel centered lives is the result of His desire to glorify Himself. If our desire has become for God’s glory, shouldn’t we as little children never cease to ask for that for which our soul longs?
We are to “be vigilant in it.” I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word vigilant, I often think of those honorable men of old, who being faced with various opposition from evil forces stood strong for what was right. To be vigilant simply means that we are alert, awake, watchful. This word is such a great word to pair with the activity of prayer, as it speaks not only to the act itself, but to the mentality we are to have as we engage in prayer, and live prayerful lives in the Lord.
When we earnestly pray with vigilance, we are alert to the need that come with gospel work. Praying with vigilance means that we are alert to the dangers in this world that come with gospel work. When we pray with vigilance, we become watchful for God’s mighty hand in all things, His mighty hand in gospel work.
Notice that we are not just to be vigilant in prayer, but “be vigilant in it with thanksgiving.” So often we pray, but we have entered a time in our lives when we are simply going through the motions. We pray, but not earnestly. We pray, but not with vigilance. It is when we are in such times that, while we might engage in prayer, we struggle to find anything for which to be thankful.
Being persistent in prayer, praying with watchful hearts and minds allows the saint of God in Christ the Lord to see what it is that the Lord is doing. Praying with vigilance means that we do not have to squint to see what God is doing, but in everything we see the mighty hand of God at work, bringing about His perfect purposes, and as we become willful witnesses to these things we cannot help but praise Him in thanksgiving.
In verse two, we see Paul’s instruction to a church to pray that God would continue to sustain them and use them for the work of gospel progression both inside their homes and through their assembly. However, he does not stop there. He asks for prayer for the work in which he himself is involved. No church is an island, and if it is our desire for God to work, we won’t selfishly pray for our own benefit, but for the success of all who are servants of the King.
Paul’s desire is that the saints would pray for doors to open. He is asking that the saints pray that God would bless him with opportunities to communicate the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to those who so desperately need it. Knowing that God uses means, and part of these means is the effective communication of the gospel through preaching, it is our responsibility to pray earnestly and with vigilance for God to grant such wonderful opportunities.
Paul says that his desire is to have opportunities to speak the mystery of Christ. The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is foolishness to the darkened heart and to the hardened heart. Paul wrote in 1Co 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
If we do desire to have opportunity to speak the gospel publicly to individual souls then we must pray that God would grant opportunity. However, the opportunity is not simply an ability to speak, but open the ears of those to whom we speak the gospel. We must pray earnestly and vigilantly that the Lord’s would present opportunities for His servants to speak the blessed mystery of Christ to hearts that have been soften by the moving of His Spirit.
So, considering our inability to do things as we may normally do them during this age of pandemic, let’s make a fervent effort to pray together for the progression of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s focus on our missionaries, on the preaching of God’s word. Let’s commit ourselves to persistent, alert, and thankful prayer for opportunities to give the gospel to sinners, and to see God do a mighty saving work in lives.