Struggling in Prayer
I’m not going to talk about “struggling in prayer” in the sense of “having a hard time praying.” Instead, I’m going to talk about struggling in prayer in a different light. Let’s turn to Colossians 4:12:
12Epaphras, 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.
I’m expecting someone to say to me right away, “Okay, I know Jesus, Peter, and Paul. But Epaphras? Who is he?” Let me answer.
Epaphras was the pastor of the church in Colosse. The apostle Paul described him as a “beloved fellow servant” and a “faithful minister of Christ on [the Colossians’] behalf” (Colossians 1:7). It was through him that the Colossians learned the Gospel (see vv. 5-7). He happened to be with Paul, since he was imprisoned with him (Philemon 1:23). No wonder the pastor of the Colossian church was greeting his own church.
always struggling on your behalf in his prayers
So what was he doing? He was struggling in prayer for his church. The word struggling is translated in Greek as agonizomai. It can mean “to enter a contest,” or “to contend in the gymnastic game,” or “to contend with adversaries” (fight). Now, no one enters a contest, or plays in the gymnastic games, or fights with his adversaries without experiencing pain. So the word struggle (agonizomai) gives us the idea of pain (I believe the word agony came from our Greek word here). We can find this word in Luke 13:24:
24“Strive [agonizomai] to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
Of course, there is pain involved when one enters a narrow door, especially when he is fat.
We also see this word in 1 Corinthians 9:25 (NASB):
25Everyone who competes [agonizomai] in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
Now an athlete is someone who goes through the pain of self-control. He goes through intense training and diet, which is normally painful. He must do it. Else, he isn’t an athlete.
So how did Epaphras pray for his church? Answer: With agonizing pain. (I believe this is in metaphorical terms. But if Epaphras is literally experiencing pain as he prayed, I will not doubt. At the first place, he was in chains).
I’m reminded of Jacob’s wrestling with God. It is interesting to note that the man touched his hip socket first (Genesis 32:25) before he said “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (v.26). So he was already in agony but did not let go. He struggled so that he’ll be blessed. Later we read that God did bless him (v.29).
But why was Epaphras struggling for his church in his prayers? The answer:
that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.
He’s praying for the maturity of his people, that they will be always be aligned in all the will of God. This only reveals that Epaphras loved his church. He will not go through the agony of praying for them if he did not love them at the first place.
At one point, Colossians 4:12 took a grip on me. Sure, I pray a lot, but only for my own needs. For my church? Not much! This revealed how much I love my church.
So I decided to struggle in praying for my church and for the individuals the consist it.
Let’s all learn from the example of Epaphras. Let’s struggle in praying for our church, that they “may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.”