Concluding our study of Colossians, we will notice (Col. 4:2-6). Here, Paul offers a few final instructions on how Christians should live as God's new covenant community. Paul talks about the importance of prayer.
Flow of the Letter
Paul, writing to the church at Colossae, is encouraged and thankful for their faithfulness and love of God's people (Col. 1:3). He has talked about the fullness of Jesus and the work of Jesus in reconciling all things to God (Col. 1:15-23). One of the purposes Paul is writing can be found in (Col. 2:6-7).
Colossians 2:6–7 (NIV)
"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."
Paul desires the church to remain focused on Jesus, built up, strengthened, and expressing an attitude of gratitude or thankfulness as they consider the fullness of Christ.
Although Paul is thankful and encouraged by the faithfulness of this young church, he is cautious and warns about cultural pressures that could pull their focus away from Christ. Two influences to resist were the observance of the laws of the Torah and teaching based on visions and the worship of angels (2:6-23).
Colossians 3 begins a new section of the letter. Paul begins explaining how the church should live as God's new creation, His covenant community in the culture.
Colossians 3:1–3 (NIV)
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."
Our focus must remain on Christ as our attitudes, actions, and language reflect Him, not the culture around us. Sexual immorality is to be put away. Anger, rage, slander, and filthy language are not to come from our lips (Col. 3:1-10). As God's new covenant community, we are one body, one family in Christ (Col. 3:11-17). Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness are characteristics we should possess as God's new covenant community. Such characteristics should extend into our homes as Christ is exalted and Lord over our homes (Col. 3:18-4:1).
The Importance of Prayer
One final instruction Paul offers the church in Colossae is on the importance of prayer.
Colossians 4:2–6 (NIV)
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."
Be faithful, engaged in, and hold fast to prayer; watchful and thankful. Admittedly, one of the areas I struggle with in my faith is being consistent in prayer. However, Paul knows the importance of remaining connected to Christ. He knows the hope of Christ and the strength of Christ. Each of these increases in our lives as we commune with God through prayer. Living as God's new community will be difficult, if not impossible, without devotion to prayer.
Paul's Prayers in Colossians
In Paul's letters, we see the importance of connected prayer. His letters are filled with prayer (ref. Rom. 1:8-10, 11:33-36, 15:30-33; 1 Cor. 1:4-9; Eph. 1:3ff, 3:14-21; Phil. 1:3ff). In Colossians, Paul begins and ends his letter with prayer (ref. Col. 1:3ff, 4:2-6). Prayer bookends this letter as we see the importance of prayer in the life of the apostle Paul.
Partnership of Prayer
As Paul pens this letter, he is in prison (1:24, 4:18). He has been shipwrecked (Acts 27), beaten, stoned, and left for dead (Acts 14:19-28), all for the sake of Christ. Paul is an aged and seasoned apostle of the Lord. He is a wise and gracious teacher. We see this as he offers instructions on prayer in Colossians. Although Paul is writing to a young church, he understands the importance of partnership in the gospel of Christ. Paul draws on the church to partner with him in prayer. As a wise teacher, Paul models how this looks in his instruction.
Noticing Paul's prayer, there is a parallel structure. What he asks the church to pray for concerning himself is his instruction for them. For example, in (4:3), he records, "And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains." Paul's desire is for a path to be opened so that he may proclaim the glorious message of Christ or the mystery of Christ. We can overlay his instructions for the church (4:5), "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity." He desires for the church to pray the same prayer. They are to make the most of every opportunity to share the abundance, the message of Christ, with others.
Following his prayer, we see other parallels. In (4:4), "Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should." As we overlay this with (4:6), we see the parallel structure, "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." As we share the message of Christ, our speech is to be gracious and well-chosen. Occasionally, rabbis would use the word "salt" to “mean wisdom.”(1) Paul's desire for those in Colossae, as well as us today, is to clearly communicate the message of Christ to all who would desire to know Him.
Bridging The Context
Paul, concluding his instructions on how to live as God's new covenant community in Greco-Roman culture, stresses the importance of prayer. Prayer was central to the life of Paul, as we see in his letters. Prayer bookends the letter of Colossians, and it will need to be core for this young church.
The importance Paul places on prayer is not only for the church in Colossae. Prayer must be central to our lives today as God's covenant community amid our culture. There is a partnership in prayer. Today, as his church, we work together as we share the message and love of Christ. Prayer connects us and connects us to the purposes of God in our culture today.
At times prayer can be a struggle for us. Prayer may be something we struggle to make a consistent part of our lives. However, Paul's desire for the church at Colossae was for them to grow in the Lord.
Colossians 1:9–12 (NIV)
"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light."
The Lord's desire for us today is to grow in Him. Growth will only happen with prayer.
Question to Consider
Is prayer consistent and core in my life?
Unless otherwise noted; Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by Permission. All rights reserved worldwide. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011).
1 Peter T. O’Brien, “Colossians,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson et al., 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 12