The wonder of effective prayer confronts us in today’s readings. Paul tells the Colossians to “continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving … pray also for us” (4:2,3). Paul is imprisoned and he asks them to “remember my chains” (verse 18).
A believer from Colossae is with him, “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers”. And what is he praying for with such an earnest struggle? “That you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God” (verse 12). Some may need such a prayer today.
How alive with meaning are those words! All prayer is made, conscious of the will of God. There are times when we implore God that it might be His will to do something; that a ‘thorn in the flesh’ might be removed, or understanding given to appreciate God’s will in allowing it (see 2 Corinthians 12:7-10). The prayer from the heart of a committed believer is made knowing that God has the oversight of their lives. God sees that in the lives of “those who love God, all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28), that is for the good of God’s will and purpose.
Today we start reading the book of Nehemiah. “O Lord” he prays “let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear (be in awe of) your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man” (1:11). And who is this man? It is Artaxerxes, the king of Persia to whom Nehemiah is cupbearer. Nehemiah has received distressing news about the state of things in Jerusalem and the king asks, “Why is your face so sad?” (2:2). He tells him why “… the place of my Father’s graves lies in ruins and its gates have been destroyed …” (verse 3). The king responds, “What are you requesting?” How is Nehemiah to answer? “So I prayed to the God of heaven” (verse 4). That was an instant prayer! We are going to read the outcome of that prayer – and of the traumas and successes that follow in Nehemiah’s life.
We may well have challenging situations like. Some of us could be confronted with situations that cause us to “struggle” in prayer. May we all practice the intimacy and intensity of heart-felt prayer to our Maker and Redeemer.