Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Direction for Church Prayer

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on December 19, 2014 at 11:16 am

Prayer

2 Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; 3 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: 4 That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. (Col 4.2-4)

Paul’s next to last piece of advice in his letter to the church in Colosse regards the ministry of prayer, the last being the way Christians should relate to unbelievers (4.5-6). The rest of the letter contains personal greetings and an exhortation to Archippus who may have been a pastor to them.

While couched in a specific personal and historical setting, Paul’s sentiment still conveys considerable implications which remain relevant for all churches today. All are called to pray as Paul describes, and to pray for preachers, and to pray for the gospel.

Pray (v. 2)

This direction is addressed to the whole congregation, not just its leadership.

A very strict rendering reads, “(untranslated article) / in prayer / steadfastly continue, / watching / in / it / with / thanksgiving” (ILTGNT, Greek words separated by /). The main subject is a noun, “prayer,” the main word for prayer in the New Testament (TDNT), which means “to speak to or to make requests of God” (LN 33.178). The first verb exhorts to persistence; the second, to alertness. This implies that we are prone to neglect prayer, or to become weary in it. Our experience sadly confirms this. We are just like Jesus’ first disciples (Matt 26.40-41).

Paul adds that dutiful, persistent, alert prayer must include “thanksgiving,” the expression of gratitude for benefits or blessings (BDAG; LN 33.349). We also need this reminder as we are more prone to pour out our hearts about our problems and to ask for deliverance from them, than to rehearse in prayer what the Lord has done for us to His praise. Remember the ten lepers (Luke 17.11-19). Matthew Henry devotes a whole chapter to biblical thanksgiving language in his classic, A Method for Prayer, saying, “We must be particular in our thanksgivings to God,” and giving specifics from literally hundreds of Scripture texts.

From this we gather that our church must strive toward faithfulness in our corporate ministry of prayer. We must practice it, and that requires faithful attendance upon prayer meetings. We must offer prayer conscientiously, and we must keep at it. Let us also purposefully focus on the prayers being offered, resisting wandering thoughts, or napping because eyes are closed. We must never imagine that saying thanks to God, even with protracted examples of His mercies to us, is a waste of our time together. Pleasing God must be our aim, and Paul’s direction is a revelation of His will for us.

Pray for Preachers (v. 3)

“Withal” has the sense of, “together with this: besides” (MWCD). Here Paul moves from general counsel about prayer to its matter. Many other legitimate prayer requests can and ought to be made by the gathered church, but this cannot be omitted. We must pray for preachers, of whom Paul and his associates are representative here. “Pray for us” was a frequent request of the apostle (1 Thess 5.25; 2 Thess 3.1; Heb 13.18).

Paul writes as one bound in prison seeking opportunities for the proclamation of the Word. The prayer request very subtly implies that it is not his own liberty that concerns Paul, so much as the liberty of the Christian message. “I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound” (2 Tim 2.9). Paul desired release himself especially for the freedom to spread the word of God to more people. “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith” (2 Thess 3.1-2).

Preachers still are, and will remain until Christ returns, a major and indispensable means of God for the propagation of His biblical truth. They face all kinds of hindrances, not just imprisonment, in doing their work, both physical and spiritual. Faithful preachers are kept active in their ministry by the church’s intercessory prayers. Let the names of many trustworthy ministers of Christ be conspicuous in our gatherings for prayer.

Pray for the Gospel (v. 4)

“The mystery of Christ” is an exalted reference to the gospel as most clearly revealed by Christ Himself and His apostles in the NT age (cf. Rom 16.25-26). Paul asks the churches to pray “that I may make it [the mystery = the gospel] manifest, as I ought to speak.” This rich expression behind the word “manifest” has been understood variously, as to make it known, to show people what they could not see or did not know before, to declare fearlessly, openly, boldly, clearly, and fully, and to explain the deeper implications (An Exegetical Summary of Colossians, M. King). Whichever was the specifically intended sense, all these are valid concerns of our intercessions for gospel preachers.

It is not an easy or natural thing to preach the gospel as it ought to be preached. Unbelievers are generally hostile or apathetic to it. Even Christians may foolishly fail to appreciate gospel preaching, imagining it is superfluous in the church of believers, when it is really central and vital to our spiritual life and a sound ministry. While the basics of gospel history and interpretation are plain, it is very challenging to present the whole counsel of God clearly so that most will be able to hear it profitably. Then there is the matter of the Spirit’s blessing even upon the delivery of the most faithful content, so that saints will be edified and sinners captured for the Savior. The prayers of the gathered church must be harnessed to these great ends of the ministry. Ω

D. Scott Meadows, Pastor
Calvary Baptist Church (Reformed)
Exeter, New Hampshire USA
http://cbcexeter.sermonaudio.com

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  1. Thank you Pastor Meadows. Praying for pastors should be at the forefront of the prayers of the people of God, as you so well said. Both the personal walk and maturity of the believers, and the prosperity of the Kingdom of God, is inextricably linked to the blessing of God on her pastors.

    Did people pray for their pastors more, and criticize them less, did they appreciate them more, and complain about them less, how much more their own spiritual prosperity would increase!

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