A Call and A Request for Prayer
Read Colossians 4:2-4
Paul urges Christians to keep praying with watchful and thankful hearts. He also makes requests and asks that (1) they pray that the gospel be given a wide opening so that it can be freely spoken and (2) that when it is spoken, he will be clear.
He does not express exactly what these open doors would look like but it probably means something like conversations that turn toward spiritual things, circumstances that arise that naturally lead to gospel opportunities. He desperately wants God to move so that the message will advance.
Let’s explore a little deeper his requests that the gospel message advance and that it be spoken clearly.
First, what situation was Paul in when he asked them for these requests (look at Col 4:2-4, 18)?
If you were in prison and your church asked you to share a couple prayer requests would this be on the top of your list? What would you ask for (be honest)?
What is remarkable is not just what he asked for, but what Paul did not. He did not ask for release. This request for release would not have been wrong at all and would be a worthy thing to ask for. But for Paul he did not make this the request he wanted the church to focus upon. Rather, he wanted them to ask God to advance the gospel in the world.
As we consider what he did ask for while in prison, what does this say about Paul’s heartbeat and his perspective on things? Try to be specific (for example, what does this say about His view of God, of lost people, of himself, etc.)
This is not the only time that Paul has this radical gospel-perspective on things he is facing. Read Philippians 1:12-14. Paul is also in prison here. How does he view his imprisonment here?
Here is the heartbeat of the apostle: to see the gospel message advance; to see the message proclaimed further and wider than ever before. And he was willing to endure a lot to have that happen. Whether in Paul’s request of the Colossians to pray that the gospel advance (even if that meant he stays in prison) or in his perspective on the goodness of the imprisonment (Phil 1) because it leads to the progress of the gospel, the apostle exemplifies for us the heartbeat of heaven. And his prayer request illustrates for us the ideal perspective (and prayers) we should aim for. We should strive to emulate the apostle who for the sake of God’s glory and souls in need of salvation, was willing to ensure personal trouble to make sure that the gospel message progresses! When we think about it, Paul is simply emulating Jesus, who was willing to endure the deepest suffering because it means the glory of God and salvation of sinners!
Evaluate your heart first. Honestly, how willing are you to endure discomfort and loss, if it meant that the message of Jesus could reach more people? And how willing are you to pray for this? Pray that the Lord gives you a soft and humble heart that would be willing to endure suffering for the sake of the gospel’s advance.
Now do a little evaluation of your prayers. Honestly, how much of your requests are centered on your personal comfort, needs, ambitions and how many are centered on the stuff of heaven like the advance of God’s gospel, the salvation of souls and God’s deepening glory in the world? Pray that the Lord gives us sincere hearts that want the gospel to advance more than we do our comforts and pray that our prayers look more and more like Jesus’ and the apostles’!
Father, thank you for Paul and the example of what he asked for and what he did not. Thank you for using this to challenge my perspective, my ambitions, and my prayers. Forgive me for so often asking for personal comfort and not your will. Rather, help me to sincerely want the gospel to advance beyond my ease. Give me the heartbeat, not only of Paul, but ultimately of Jesus Christ who was willing to endure so much suffering, and who gave His life for the sake of saving souls. And Lord please open doors for the gospel to be spoken, even if that means discomfort for me in the process. In Jesus’ name. Amen.