JohnSWilson3 Blog

“Continue in prayer…”
July 27, 2010, 3:39 pm
Filed under: N Letter to the Colossians

Towards the end of Paul’s letter to the organic church in Colosse he tells the believers “In prayer continue, watching in it with thanksgiving, praying together…” (literal translation) (1). My first impression as I read these words is to find a practice or form of praying instead of looking at what it says in principle. How often we focus on how to pray versus allowing the Spirit to lead us in the praying as He desires. So often when we gather together, whether in an institutional church setting or simple church setting in a home we tend to focus on what to pray about, instead of allowing the Spirit to organically enable each of us to pray as He leads. How often we talk about who needs prayed for and after a lengthy time of discussion of multiple needs one person is called on to pray for them all. I don’t think that’s what Paul means here about continuing in prayer and being watchful in it with thanksgiving. The former is programmed prayer and selfish and not led by the Spirit of God. Organic prayer rises from the depths of knowing Jesus Christ in each of us by His Spirit, to manifest Jesus Christ’s life through His body.

These few words about praying is after Paul has described ways that the life of Jesus is manifested in the church as it gathers and in the households where the church meets together. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Praying is a manifestation of the lordship of Jesus Christ in us and is directed by Him just like all spiritual life in His body. Prayer, our relationship with Jesus Christ, is learned in community with the brothers and sisters. It is not at a specific time or directed by any person in our gathering, it is directed by the Holy Spirit through the gathering towards Christ and His purpose and also has relevance towards our life in Christ when we are not gathered together.

J. B. Lightfoot describes “continue” or “devoted” to prayer as “clinging closely to” or “remaining constant” in prayer and that “watching in it” refers to having “the heart…awake” (2). This gives me a sense of closeness to Jesus Christ. How much does Christ dwell in me? How much do I really know Him? Jesus had much to say about praying in many of His parables, much of it dispersed throughout the gospels. Perhaps this also gives a sense that prayer is not something that we program but is meant to be a part of our new nature, our life with Him, as He is our life! I can imagine that while Paul is in prison he has been reading some of the gospel account that Luke has been writing to his friend. In Luke’s account he mentions numerous accounts of a relationship with Christ of praying. Of course Mark is also with Paul at this time and probably has a copy of Mark’s gospel account, and perhaps has a copy of Matthew’s gospel account as well, having visited the Jerusalem church earlier. Here are just a few examples just from some of the sayings of Jesus in the gospel according to Luke (look for yourself what Matthew and Mark also says):

“For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks…(the one) who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice.”
For “the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word (logos), retain it, and persevering produce a crop.”
“Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”
“My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word (logos) and put it into practice.”
“No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
After watching Jesus “praying in a certain place….one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ ”
After His brief teaching on prayer Jesus tells the disciples” “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
“He who does not gather with me, scatters.”
“Blessed rather are those who hear the word (logos) of God and obey it.”
“I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God.”
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
“In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
“Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”
He told a parable to His disciples “to show that they should always pray and not give up.”
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
“I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
“My house will be a house of prayer…”
“But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
“Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”

Prayer comes from Him, it is based on listening carefully to His speaking to us, He teaches us to pray. Prayer is in response to His speaking to us inwardly, the praying from His Spirit through His body, or in our circumstances. The gifts of the Spirit are another means by which we see and listen to what He is trying to say to us and we respond in kind. We learn more of Christ as we respond to Him. Praying then is also “watching in it,” listening and discerning what the Spirit of God is saying and following His directions. Praying then becomes continuous and organic, occurring throughout the time of our gathering together instead of at a specific time. It is spiritual wisdom not earthly. It is towards Him not us. How easy we can be tempted to not listen to the Spirit and listen to our needs and wants and express our flesh instead of His life.

Praying is another aspect of what Paul described as being a part of the church’s gathering: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since (you are) members of one body” and “Let the word (logos) of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” And brothers and sisters, when we have heard from Him, in us, in His people, and we respond to His directions, what peace we have, what wonderful gratitude do we have towards God that He would live in us and speak through us and be a part of our lives! Praying is not an event, not programmed, it is directed by the Spirit of Christ throughout our time together!

Remember what Paul wrote decades before he wrote this letter to the Colossians in his first letter to the church of the Thessalonians: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through…” A good word about life in Christ, praying, within the body of Christ. Our time together is about displaying the life of Christ towards Him through one another.

Paul’s initial prayer for the Colossians comes to mind: “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” When Christ is the head of His body, and we allow Him to direct us as we gather praying will be organic, it will be produced by His Spirit in us as we listen to Him and we follow what He says by faith. What grace that God has given us that He would speak in and through us towards one another! God has made us “alive with Christ”! When I hear Him speak to me and through His people how thankful to God I become!

(1) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 593.
(2) Lightfoot, J.B., “St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and Philemon: J.B. Lightfoot’s Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul, Third Printing, Hendrickson Publishers, 1995, 231.


2 Comments so far
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Great post John. I think its very important that we not set our own boundaries for how prayer is suppose to be. Instead, our prayers should be whatever God decides is right for that moment. God may very well lead us to take prayer requests. But we shouldn’t make that the model. I hope people will seek to pray every moment of their lives.

Comment by Peter

Thanks Peter for the comments. That is the point…LOL. I focused on prayer based on the context of “continuing in prayer” within the gathering versus how we have normally been taught prayer within institutional Christianity. I did not mean that we would never have prayer requests since even Paul asked for specific prayer and in Ephesians mentions “all kinds of prayers and requests” but this was also in context of “pray in the Spirit on all occasions…” I guess the focus I got from the Lord was a life of continuous prayer being at any time and as led by the Lord within a gathering not just at the beginning and end of out gathering time, but I do see your point that “requests” could be how the Lord leads the praying at any time in the gathering. Thanks again brother for your comments!

Comment by John Wilson

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