Rev. Slopsema is pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“Continue in prayer…”
The apostle Paul has already exhorted the believers in Colosse in this epistle to live a godly, sanctified life. They are to put off the old man with its sinful deeds and put on the new man in Jesus Christ. Paul has also shown how they are to live as new men and women in Christ, especially in the home and family. Exhortations have been given to husbands and wives, to parents and children, even to masters and slaves.
And now the apostle calls the saints to pray. They are tocontinue in prayer. They are to do so that they may live in the godliness to which Paul has already called them.
How important this instruction is for us. There is widespread failure today to follow this instruction to continue in prayer. The result is that we do not attain the level of godliness in our lives and homes that we could and should. Let us heed the instruction to continue in prayer.
Prayer is a wonderful, marvelous thing.
Prayer is communication with the living God. God communicates with us through the Scriptures, especially as those Scriptures are faithfully proclaimed to us in the preaching. And we are able to respond to God through prayer.
In prayer we have opportunity to thank and praise God for all His goodness to us. Prayer is also the opportunity to bring all our needs before God and seek His help.
This is an amazing thing! We are talking about God, the One who is infinitely exalted above the universe, the King of all kings, the One who works day and night to uphold and govern the entire universe. Yet we can approach Him in prayer at any time and from any place with our cares and concerns. This is not something we can do with earthly rulers. Very few have direct access to those in high places in our government. Yet in prayer we have direct access to the living God, the King of all kings, to lay before Him the burdens of our heart.
Prayer is a privilege God gives to us in His covenant.
Not everyone has the right to approach God in prayer. The ungodly, who know not Jesus Christ, and who walk in the darkness of sin and unbelief, have no right to come into God’s presence in prayer. Their prayers will fall on deaf ears.
Only those who belong to God’s covenant have the privilege of prayer. God’s covenant is an intimate relation of friendship and fellowship that God establishes and maintains with His elect people in Jesus Christ. In that covenant, God becomes the Friend of His people. As their Friend, God covers all their sins in the blood of Jesus Christ, He renews and sanctifies them, He lives with them in intimate friendship and fellowship, and He blesses them with every good thing. One of the privileges of that covenant is the right to come to God in prayer.
How important it is that we exercise this covenant privilege of prayer!
Prayer is the chief means given to us by God to show our gratitude to Him. How God has blessed us in His covenant with us! God has given us the right of prayer in order that we may thank Him for His great blessings.
But prayer is also the opportunity God has given for us to lay all our needs and concerns before Him and be heard. In fact, it is only through prayer that we receive the blessings and help of our covenant God. The Heidelberg Catechism states it this way: “God will give His grace and Holy Spirit to those only who with sincere desires continually ask them of Him, and are thankful for them” (Q&A 116).
It is this latter importance of prayer that is Paul’s concern as he writes to the Colossian saints. He has exhorted the church to godly living. The grace and strength to do so is found in prayer.
Continue in prayer!
That the saints may live godly, Paul exhorts them to pray.
And they must not just pray, they must continue in prayer.
To continue in prayer is to give constant attention to prayer. It means to persevere in prayer, to give yourself over to prayer so that you are much in prayer. It means to do this regardless of all the distractions of life that would keep you from prayer, and regardless of any difficulty you may encounter in prayer.
There are, in Scripture, many examples of those that continued in prayer.
Scripture sets before us the pattern of praying at least three times a day. In Psalm 55:17 David confessed, “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud.” This was also done by Daniel, even though it was forbidden by his foolish king and brought him to the lions’ den.
In times of distress the saints would spend much time in prayer. While fleeing from his enemies in the wilderness of Judah, David would pray early in the morning, and even through the night (Ps. 63:1, 6).
Jesus was often pressed to the point of weariness by the crowds that demanded His attention. To rest and refresh Himself He did not go on a Caribbean cruise or flee to some vacation spot. He rather found a lonely place with His disciples in order to pray.
In the same manner must we continue in prayer.
Certainly this means that we pray a minimum of three times a day—morning, noon, and evening. And we must not be content with prayers that simply ask God’s blessing upon our meals, uttered perhaps automatically and thoughtlessly. These must be meaningful prayers from the heart—prayers in which we bring our needs before the face of God and thank Him for His wonderful blessings in Jesus Christ.
In times of trouble and distress we must spend additional time in prayer. We do well to rise up early in the morning to pray. Or perhaps we even need to pray deep into the night.
There is on our part a widespread failure to do this.
Instead of giving attention to prayer, too many of us are giving attention to all sorts of activities that are of lesser importance than prayer and that quickly crowd out time for prayer. Many continue in sports and recreation rather than in prayer. Rather than continuing in prayer, still others continue in television, video games, and the Internet. Still others neglect prayer because they have given themselves over to advancing their careers, maintaining nice homes, and living the “good life.”
This is all to our spiritual hurt. Worldliness is creeping into our homes, our schools, and our churches. And it is all connected to a sad neglect of prayer.
Let us be those that continue in prayer! Let us busy ourselves in prayer. Let’s do that as churches. Let’s do that as families. Let’s do that as individual saints, young and old alike.
This requires spiritual self-discipline and self-control. It also requires a certain measure of sacrifice. To continue in prayer may well require that we curtail or even give up things and activities that we have come to enjoy and cherish.
But the fruit of continuing in prayer is well worth any sacrifice we may have to make. After all, what is more important than cultivating our relationship with God in prayer? What is more important than the grace we find in prayer to walk uprightly before God? All else is of lesser importance.
Continue in prayer!