“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God” (Colossians 4:12, author’s emphasis).
This verse has long fascinated me. What does that mean exactly? “Struggling on your behalf in his prayers.” The NIV uses the word wrestling. This reminds me of the time Jacob wrestled with God (Genesis 32:23-32). The Greek words means to struggle – like competing for a prize – or to contend with an adversary.
Perhaps this is akin to Jesus’ story about the persistent widow. She repeatedly went before a judge pleading, “Give me justice against my adversary” (Luke 18:3). According to the story, the judge didn’t really want to help her, but finally relented because of her persistence. Is that what it means to struggle in prayer? To keep it up even when it seems as though nothing is happening? That is, after all, the reason Jesus told this parable. Luke 18:1 says, “He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”
The Message paraphrase renders the Colossians 4:12 verse to say that Epaphras was “tireless in his prayers for you.” I like that. It sounds a bit like Paul’s admonition to the Church at Thessalonica, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Note carefully, though, what it was that Epaphras was praying so diligently for: “…that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.” That idea makes my frequent Me-centered prayers seem puny and worthless.
Epaphras was focused on the needs of others. He was asking God to cause his brothers and sisters in Christ to stand firm in following Him. I think that’s an idea that is worth contending, wresting, and struggling for in persistent prayer. Let’s do that for one another, brothers and sisters in Christ.
This is such a timely post for me. God has been teaching me a lot about intercession lately. Recently he led me to 1 Peter 1:18-20 and 2:10 to pray over Serbia. I’ve also found more and more that times of corporate worship have become times of intercession for me as well. It isn’t uncommon for me to feel as if I’m bearing the church and people of Serbia in my heart to God’s throne during worship. I also find it can be physically exhausting.