There are some things in life that just seem to be harder than others. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to do those things that require discipline? It could be shedding a few pounds or doing that chore that you just do not enjoy doing. All of us have something that takes extra effort to focus on. The Bible reminds us that prayer is one of those necessary practices that takes extra effort. But why is it so hard?
I was recently reading the letter to the Colossians when I was reminded of the struggle to pray. The Apostle Paul makes a comment concerning Epaphras, one of his ministry team members. It is probable that Epaphras was impacted by Paul’s ministry in neighboring city Ephesus and involved in some significant way in the start of the church in Colossae. Paul writes, “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) I was struck by the statement of him “always struggling on your behalf in his prayers.”
First, and most obvious, is that Epaphras is praying for those he cares for. This is always a great starting point for prayer. Second, we notice the emphasis of his prayers was for their spiritual development. He prayed that would stand mature and lived with an assurance of God’s will for their lives. What I want to focus on the statement sandwiched in the middle of this verse. Paul’s observation of his sacrificial investment in prayer for them, “always struggling on your behalf.” We need to be reminded that prayer is a battle that we must fight on our knees. So why is prayer a challenge?
I believe it is because we are not mentally prepared for the challenge. Yes, prayer can be as simply talking to the Lord, but it is more than that! It represents God’s people doing battle to bring their needs and the needs of other before the “throne of God.” Our verse emphasizes the investment required in the word “struggling.” The word means, “to exert much effort or energy (in something); conceived of as engaging in a fight or contest.” The word communicates that which describes a literal fight or battle with opposition. The ancient world, much like today, enjoyed the entertainment of battles fought in different venues, like an arena. Let us not forget that the cost of watching in the stand is much different than those on the field. The battle for Epaphras, and us, takes place in the arena of life not in the stands!
We should not be surprised by this struggle. The Bible reminds us that we are actually fighting three adversaries in our pursuit of spiritual maturity and God’s working in the lives of others; our sin nature, the world system and the Devil. The degree of our “struggle” is often determined how badly we desire the result to push past than the opposition attempting to thwart our progress. .Jesus emphasized the struggle using the metaphor of wide and narrow doors. “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” (Luke 13:24) The follower of Christ, only has one valid option, the hard way through the narrow door. The Apostle Paul also reminds us of the struggle in serving Jesus. He writes, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” (Colossians 1:28–29)
Yes, the practice of prayer is not easy but it is necessary. Your greatest battle with be in developing this habit through consistency. If you are struggling with getting started let me encourage you to develop a simple prayer list, work to find a time and place, and strive to be consistent. And remember, we are all working on growing in this area!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson