Monasteries were known (and are still known) as places of prayer. In Latin, prayer is ora. The monasteries were also places of work, labora. The life of the monks, then, was ora et labora, prayer and work.
If we know anything about prayer, it is often the case that the ora becomes labora! Do we have prayer that works (and I am not asking if you have effective prayer — that is a discussion for another time). Do you work at prayer?
2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. (Colossians 4:2-4 ESV)
The apostle Paul is telling us four things about prayer in this passage:
1) Prayer is work.
2) Thankfulness during prayer stimulates alertness in prayer.
3) Prayer is a means through which we call upon God to alter affairs on the earth.
4) Prayer assumes the comprehensive sovereignty of God.
Today I want to briefly touch on just the first part.
“Continue steadfastly in prayer” – God’s people are to continue in prayer, in the sense of persistent dedication to the discipline of its practice. What Paul means is that what he is giving a corporate command to the entire Colossian church to be devoted to prayer. This isn’t a call to some few in the church, nor just its leaders. Communal prayer is a means of being watchful by ensuring vigilant readiness in times of grave danger, and it means keeping one’s spiritual eyes open. Are you joining with others in praying for our congregation, and praying with our congregation? Are we persistently dedicated to praying?
Matthew Henry reminds us in his comment on this passage:
“Keep up your constant times of prayer, without being diverted from it by other business; keep your hearts close to the duty, without wandering or deadness, and even to the end of it: Watching the same. Christians should lay hold of all opportunities for prayer, and choose the fittest seasons, which are least liable to disturbance from other things, and keep their minds lively in the duty, and in suitable frames.”
Praying in groups is important to build into your life. Families, pray together. Small groups, pray together. Ministry groups, pray together. And consider being a part of the prayer gatherings that happen here at the church each week (Tuesdays at noon and Sundays at 5pm).