Think about the content of your prayer requests. Often the prayer requests in my church family are health-related. There’s nothing wrong with asking God to heal us. But I do get concerned when it seems we have a fixation on health. While it is okay to pray for health-related concerns, that should not be our focus. Take a look at Colossians 4, verse 3 where Paul writes what prayer request content he focuses on.
Paul asks the Colossians to pray for “us,” meaning that he is thinking not just about himself, but he is asking for prayer for his ministry associates as well. We should be people who pray for one another. For our families, for our friends, and for our church family. Pray for one another.
Then notice that Paul asks the Colossians to pray that he and his ministry associates have opportunities to speak. Paul is thinking of speaking ministry. When we hear that, we think of going from church to church, or place to place, giving lectures. I think of an evangelist, maybe preaching in the open air or at a rally. Of course those people need our prayers, but we shouldn’t limit our prayers to people who have a role as a professional evangelist. Paul is more than likely asking the Colossians to pray that he will have as many opportunities as possible to talk with people about Jesus. Doesn’t have to be a crowd. Could be one person. This is a major prayer request for Paul, as evidenced by the fact that he mentions this same prayer request in other letters. Paul was passionate about talking with people about Jesus. That is a request that we should pray for one another as well, that we and they would have opportunities to speak about Jesus with others.
How often do you talk about Jesus with people in your life? Not much? If not, then start by making this a prayer request and asking people, like Paul does here, to pray for you, that you would have opportunities to talk more about Jesus.
As I read this request from Paul, I thought Paul was constantly bold, having no problem whatsoever speaking about Jesus all the time, wherever he went. When you read the book of Acts and his letters, it sure seems like he is the last guy that needs people to pray for him to have opportunities to talk about Jesus. And yet here he is asking for that prayer. It shows his humility, his dependence on God. Perhaps we could say, how much more do we need to be praying for this for ourselves, and having others pray for us.
Paul calls the content that he wants to speak about, “the mystery of Christ.” He mentioned this previously in chapters 1 and 2 of Colossians (starting here), so I’m not going to take time to review it. Simply put, he is talking about the good news of Jesus, that there is salvation and hope and new life found in Christ.
It could be that Paul asks for more open doors to talk about Jesus because of what he says in verse 3 about his current situation. He is in chains, bound in prison, and thus he does not have the opportunity to talk with people about Jesus like he would if he was a free man. So it is possible that part of what Paul is doing here is simply asking them to pray that he would be freed from jail. But as we know from what Paul writes, especially in Philippians 1, even when he is in jail, he shares the Gospel to people there.
I think it is entirely possible that God gives us opportunity to talk about Jesus more frequently than we care to admit. Nearly everywhere we are, there is likely opportunity. Perhaps if we pray for opportunities, what God will do to answer the prayer is to open our eyes to the opportunities right in front of us. Or perhaps he will embolden us to speak. Most of us are surrounded with lots of opportunities to share new life in Christ with others, but we choose instead not to talk about the story of Jesus. How about you?
Look at verse 4 and Paul also asks for prayer that he will speak the message of the Gospel clearly.
As we well know, actions speak louder than words. Or as was famously said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” What that means is that our lives preach the Gospel far more clearly and powerfully than our words. You actually do communicate content, information, and you communicate it more impactfully, by your deeds.
For too long there has been a disagreement in Christian circles about sharing the information of the Gospel and doing the deeds of the Gospel, as if one was better than the other. Both are important. Jesus was involved in sharing the Good News both through good deeds and good words. We follow his example when we are involved in sharing the love of God through both word and deed. We work toward balancing word and deed, not over-emphasizing one or the other. This is how we speak clearly, by life choices that are in line with our words.
Researchers have been telling us that people are not interested in becoming followers of Jesus because the people in the church, those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus, live so different from the way Jesus lived.
Russell Moore recently wrote this: “In the early 1920s [a person] was likely to have walked away [from church] due to the fact that she found [church doctrines] to be outdated and superstitious or because he found moral [freedom] to be more attractive than the “outmoded” strict moral code of his past or because she wanted to escape the stifling bonds of a home church for an autonomous individualism. Now we see a markedly different—and jarring—model of a disillusioned evangelical. We now see young evangelicals walking away from evangelicalism not because they do not believe what the church teaches, but because they believe the church itself does not believe what the church teaches.”
He goes on to say this: “The problem now is not that people think the church’s way of life is too demanding, too morally rigorous, but that they have come to think the church doesn’t believe its own moral teachings.
“What happens when people reject the church because they think we reject Jesus and the gospel? …What if people don’t leave the church because they disapprove of Jesus, but because they’ve read the Bible and have come to the conclusion that the church itself would disapprove of Jesus? That’s a crisis.”
In other words, the clearest way that we can share the Gospel is to live like Jesus lived. That is what Paul is referring to in verse 5, when he says, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders.” Or it could also be translated, “walk in wisdom.” Paul is talking about the choices of our lives, about what flows out of our hearts and minds and into the world. Go back to Colossians chapter 3 and review the two sets of clothing. Take off the old clothes of the sinful nature, and put on the clothing of the new life of Jesus. Our pattern of life matters more than the words we say. And people, especially the younger generations, are watching Christians’ pattern of life, that it does not look like Jesus, concluding they want nothing to do with us.
What should we do about this? We should live like Jesus lived.