What do you put on your prayer list? When you gather with other believers, what prayer requests do you typically make? If you’re like most Christians, you most frequently ask people to pray for your health, your job, your living situation or other temporal matters. Ain’t nothing wrong with that! One pastor I had used to say, “If it’s big enough to think about, it’s big enough to pray about.”
Last week, I read a prayer request that the apostle Paul made in his letter to the Colossians.
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)
He wrote that prayer request from prison. That little piece of information really arrested my attention when I read it last week, and caused me to mull over what prayer requests I might send out if I were in a Roman prison, chained to guards day and night. Based on my attitude during the two years I spent in a nursing home, I more than likely would have asked people to pray for things to alleviate my physical or emotional discomfort.
But Paul only sought prayer that he could further the Gospel!
How often do you pray for opportunities to declare the Gospel? I don’t pray such prayers often enough, even though I pray them a great deal more than I once did. (What might the Lord have done if I had prayed that way in the nursing home?) I could be mistaken, but I have a hunch that very few 21st Century Christians pray that way.
Those verses in Colossians challenge me. Do I take the Gospel seriously enough to pray for opportunities to proclaim it? Am I more interested in my comfort than in making sure that others hear what Jesus Christ did for them? These questions don’t feel good. Actually, they make me squirm. But they’re probably some of the most important questions I’ll ever ask myself.