Prayer is Work

Posted on December 14, 2012 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Devotional Reflections

Rankin-Devotional“Epaphras…always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.” Colossians 4:12

I am concluding this series of devotionals on the prayers of Paul with a final observation that prayer is work. Having led a number of prayer conferences and discipled believers over the years, I have found that few are truly satisfied with their practice of prayer. I can personally testify that it is a struggle to experience a consistent intimacy with God. Too often we resort to a perfunctory discipline, trying to find creative words worthy of communing with the Father and succumbing to repetitious expressions.

Concentration is difficult as our minds tend to wander. While praying for personal challenges and responsibilities I often realize after a few moments that my thoughts have been diverted to making plans for how I might deal with the situation. More often than not as I bring burdens to the Lord I realize I am fretting rather than praying. We need to realize that we have an enemy that doesn’t want us to connect with the divine source of power. Satan has access to our mind and can easily divert our focus. The protection of that spiritual armor of God mentioned in Ephesians 6:10-17 is put on only by “prayer and petition at all times in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18).

Paul had noted his own prayers for the recipients of his letter to Colossae, but he adds that their friend and co-laborer, Epaphras, not only prayed for them but he labored earnestly in his prayers for them. We are invited to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16), but communion with a holy God through Jesus, our great high priest, doesn’t happen in a casual, passive ritual in the morning.

This doesn’t mean there is any reluctance on the part of God to hear and respond to our petitions as His grace is readily available. In fact, He yearns to meet our every need and is grieved when we don’t readily come to Him more faithfully. However, He is not to be taken for granted. He knows our heart and our motives and is not obligated to respond to empty words.

Laboring in prayer means to get under the burden, to feel the pain of the suffering, the oppressed, the confused and discouraged for whom we are interceding. It means to be so concerned for our children, our community, our nation, a lost world that we find ourselves pouring out our hearts to God and pleading for His mercy and intervention. Paul explained that Epaphras “has a deep concern for you” (Col. 4:12); he was passionate to see them stand perfect in the will of God.

Perhaps Paul’s admonition to pray earlier in the chapter helps us understand what it means to labor in prayer. “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2). We are to be devoted to prayer. Such a commitment and priority comes, as in the case of Epaphras, by being a “bondslave of Jesus Christ.” Too much of of our prayers are characterized by our wants and needs rather than out of a context of being a slave in bondage to Christ; that results in praying earnestly for what He desires in us and others.

Paul goes on to exhort us to “keep alert”–being mindful of the tendency to get distracted and doubts to cloud the confidence that comes from being in God’s presence. Then it takes real effort to maintain “an attitude of thanksgiving” in all of our pleading and supplication, but that is where the victory comes. Thanksgiving is an expression of faith, believing God and confident He hears and answers our prayer. So, let us labor earnestly in prayer–devoted, alert and with thanksgiving.

One Comment on “Prayer is Work”

  1. Beloved of God

    I’ve found that using a journal to record my prayers and thoughts about the request is very helpful and keeps me from wandering. I update my prayers often – based on outcome, new situations and answers. I must admit while my journal is filling up quickly, I find it hard to transcribe my old prayers into a new one. Tears, agony and joy are hard to translate into new words.

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