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Rodgers Baptist Church
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Wrestling In Prayer

Preached 11/19/2008

Text: Colossians 4:12-13. “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.13 For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.”

Introduction: As we read our Bibles, we often tend to get caught up with the major characters and personalities. People like Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Daniel, of the Old Testament, and others like James, John, Peter and Paul of the New Testament. These are great heroes of the faith who cast a huge shadow. While these people are great, we best remember the words of James, who said they are men of “ passions.” Many times we discount ourselves and disallow God working in our lives by making these heroes in the Bible, super human. Here is a warning. It is good, even necessary to give respect to the people God has placed in your life for leadership. However, it is a trap to lift them upon a pedestal from which they will surely fall! Be careful not to center your faith, your walk with God, around a person other than Jesus Christ! The only truly super human person in the Bible, is the Lord Jesus Christ. All the others, are people just like us.

One other thing before we move on. Lest we under sell ourselves, Jesus said in John 14:12, “Verily, verily. I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” Perhaps it’s time we stop making excuses for ourselves, and by faith begin to see God doing great things through us!

If we will take a second look at some of the great personalities in the Bible, we will discover some overlooked, little known people, who have been lost in their shadow. One such person was Epaphras. Epaphras can be found in the shadow of the apostle Paul. The name Epaphras means lovely, which truly describes this servant of the Lord. If Epaphras was overlooked in his day, it was not by Paul. In this letter to the church at Colosse, Paul is faithful to sing his praises. Paul was careful to acknowledge those who labored in the midst of difficult times and circumstances to advance the cause of Christ.

Our love and labor in the work of God is never forgotten or overlooked by God in Heaven! Paul in Hebrews 6:10 writes, “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” You may be one of those members in this body whose work is behind the scenes, unnoticed, and often unappreciated, but our God does not lose track of you or your work! You are not faceless to God!

This man Epaphras, was a very important person to God, and to Paul. In Colossians 1:7-8, we can see just why. Paul says, “As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellow servant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.” From what we can gather, Epaphras was a native of Colosse, who was perhaps saved through Paul’s ministry, and was one of the key founders of the church there in that city. Paul calls him a “fellow servant,” and a “faithful minister of Christ.” This is a glorious commendation coming from the zealous apostle Paul. Paul did not put up with anyone who would not give all they had to Jesus Christ. To be praised by Paul, is something special. Epaphras worked very closely with Paul, and was considered a “fellow servant.” He was faithful to minister in Colosse, and also in the cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis.

This letter to the church at Colosse, was written by Paul from Rome where he was a prisoner. Evidently, Epaphras had traveled to Rome to visit Paul in prison, concerned about false doctrine that had infiltrated the churches of that region. Paul in turn wrote this letter which was dispatched by others, while Epaphras remained behind with Paul for a period of time. This man Epaphras was willing to sacrifice his own comfort to assist Paul and encourage him there in a dingy, rat infested, prison cell! As we pull Epaphras from the shadow of the apostle Paul, he begins to cast a shadow of his own. Certainly Epaphras was a great man who accomplished a great work for God, and the cause of Christ!

Think about this, We have moved from an over looked person, to an over looked part of the Christian life. Paul and Epaphras were together in that prison, and as Epaphras prayed, Paul was impressed! He writes to the church back in Colosse, “This man Epaphras really loves you. This man has great zeal for you.” How does Paul know that? He writes, “....because he is always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” Paul was careful not to overlook the importance of people, and the importance of prayer! Prayer was important to Paul, and it is important to God.

When is the last time your prayers gained the praise or even the notice of someone around you? It is a sad reality that our prayers have become common place in our lives and churches, but perhaps it is so because our prayers themselves have become common and mundane.

The prayer life of Epaphras was far from common. What made it so? I believe Paul gives us an idea in these two verses.

First: Epaphras was faithful in his prayer life. Notice in verse 12, Paul says he was, “....always labouring fervently for you in prayers.” Those two words, “always” and “prayers” indicate that Epaphras was a man of prayer. Paul said he was “always” praying! He was not only a man of prayer, but a man of “prayers.” Just how often Epaphras went to prayer on behalf of these fellow members of the church in Colosse, we do not know, but it was consistent enough, and often enough, to gain the attention of Paul and impress him. The root word of “faithful,” is faith. Epaphras had great faith in a God who would hear and answer prayer. He prayed faithfully, because he knew that it was powerful to change circumstances and lives.

Perhaps we are not very good prayer warriors, simply because we are out of practice. Great athletes become great by faithfully training and working on their particular skills. Great musicians achieve success by faithfully practicing. It stands to reason that we would become better at prayer, if we prayed more faithfully! The Bible commands us to do so. Jesus said, “ ought always to pray, and not to faint.” Prayer should be our first, immediate response to every need. For most of us sad to say, prayer is the last resort. I Thessalonians 5:17 commands us to, “Pray without ceasing.”

Second: Epaphras was fervent in his prayer life. Verse 12 tells us that he was “...always, labouring fervently for you in prayers.” In verse 13, Paul noted that this man had “great zeal.” He said, “For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.” The word “fervently” in verse 12, means to strive, to contend. The word “zeal” in verse 13, means to burn. Somehow I think the prayers of this man went beyond, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray dear Lord my soul to keep.” Epaphras prayed with intensity.

To pray “fervently,” is to pray like our Savior. Notice how Jesus prayed in Hebrews 5:7. “Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared.” Do you sense the fervency, the intensity, in this verse? It’s no wonder that after hearing Jesus pray, His disciples asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Charles Spurgeon compared people coming to pray, with ringing a bell at an old church. He said that some grab the rope of prayer, but they hardly move it at all, and God seemingly doesn’t hear. Others come and grab the rope of prayer and shake it just a little, barely waking Heaven. Then, there are those who when they come to pray, grab hold of the rope of prayer, and they pull it with all their might, ringing the bell loudly and repeatedly! Spurgeon inferred that God hears their prayers, because they pray with fervency! When you pray, do you ring the bells of Heaven? Do you pray like you mean it?

Third: Epaphras was focused in his prayer life. When I say this man was focused in his prayers, I mean he was locked in on the right things.

I love to watch a good bird dog hunt. A good dog will keep his or her nose to the ground, and when it smells a quail or pheasant, it will stop on point. It is locked in, focused, on that bird! Nothing can move that dog away from that bird until it is flushed out! Epaphras was focused in his prayers. His prayers were preoccupied with the right things! What are the right things?

Our prayers need to be focused on others, rather than solely upon ourselves. Epaphras prayed for others! Verse 12 says he was, “....always labouring fervently for YOU in prayers.” In verse 13 Paul said, “....he hath a great zeal for YOU, and THEM that are in Ladodicea and THEM in Hierapolis.” So often, our prayers are preoccupied with just ourselves and our loved ones. We hardly ever pray beyond our own immediate personal needs or relationships. God would have us expand our prayer circle! Notice the prayer list given in I Timothy 2:1-4. “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” What a great focus! Paul would have our prayer focus as big as the world!

Our prayers need to be focused on the spiritual, above the material. Don’t get me wrong, God is preoccupied with our daily needs such as money to pay the bills, clothes, food, shelter and safety, but there are other things! Notice what Epaphras prayed for. Verse 12b says, “...that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” The word “perfect” means mature, and the idea of “complete” is to be confident and assured. Epaphras prayed that these people would grow to be spiritually mature enough to know the will of God for their lives, and to stand confident in it! What a noble thing to pray for! Could a child of God ask for anything more?

I truly believe our greatest needs are spiritual. We have enough credit cards, what we need is contentment. We have enough possessions, what we need is maturity. We have toys for our recreation and pleasure, what we need is repentance and a passion for the things of God! We have comforts, what we need is more courage and boldness to witness.

How does your prayer list read? How big is your prayer circle? What are you asking God for? Are your prayers locked in on the right things?

Fourth: The prayers of Epaphras were hard fought. Let’s go back to verse 12 and look at that phrase, “...labouring fervently.” This phrase in the Greek is agonizomai. It comes from the Greek word agonia, which means to fight, to contend. Here Paul speaks of prayer as fighting, or wrestling. Have you ever thought of prayer as agony, or wrestling? Prayer is a struggle isn’t it? Perhaps that’s why we do not pray as faithfully, as fervently, and as focused as we ought. Prayer is not easy. Prayer is a struggle! If you think about it, prayer is one of the most powerful weapons a believer has in his arsenal. When we pray, we do battle. Paul spoke of spiritual warfare Ephesians 6:12 as wrestling! He said, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

Our struggle with prayer is not with a reluctant God. God is never reluctant to hear our prayers. Our struggle to pray is with our flesh, this present world, and the devil. It’s much like the last few minutes of a good guy, bad guy movie. It always comes down to a one on one struggle between the good guy and the bad guy. Of course one of them has a gun, which slides across the floor in the struggle. They each struggle in an attempt to get to that gun. Whoever gets the gun, has the advantage! Prayer is a mighty weapon in our conflict with sin. Satan will do everything in his power to keep you away from the weapon of prayer. As you try to slide across the room toward prayer, the flesh, this world’s system, the devil, will grab your ankle and pull you back! Even when we do grab a few moments to pray, there is a present struggle to pray as we ought!

Epaphras would wrestle in prayer, and it’s the same for us. The next time you pray, be aware of the struggle and be ready to do battle. When you pray, you enter an arena to wrestle!

Prayer wrestles with sin. The presence of sin in our hearts and lives defeats prayer. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Unconfessed sin or a spirit of unforgiveness, hangs on us like street clothes. Before we step into the arena of prayer, we must go through the locker room of confession of sin and repentance.

Prayer wrestles with schedules. Most of us just don’t take time to pray. We are too busy with other things, good things, even Christian things. Epaphras was a busy man, but he was not too busy to pray! Jesus made the most of His time on this earth, He mastered His time, and it was always in His schedule to pray. Prayer preceded every significant moment of Jesus’ life and work! Truly it could be said, “We are too busy, not to pray!”

Prayer wrestles with scattered thoughts. Prayer is a discipline, largely of the mind. Have you been in prayer and some thought or scene invaded your mind? Prayer needs a mind whose thoughts are under the obedience of the power of the Holy Spirit. We must take responsibility for our thought life. We must set the agenda for our minds. Keep the Holy Scriptures before you. Keep a written prayer list before you. Pray for power and control over your thought life. God can give us victory in this area, but it is a struggle!

Prayer wrestles with skepticism. Epaphras prayed that his friends might be fully assured of God’s will. Often when we pray, we struggle with doubt; doubt that God will hear and answer; doubt that our prayers will make a difference. We must pray in faith, believing. Jesus said in Matthew 21:22, “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”

Over in Acts 12, Peter was taken and cast into prison. Verse 5 says, “Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” The church prayed for Peter and God sent his angel to deliver him. Free from prison, Peter went to where they were praying and knocked at the door. A girl named Rhoda was sent to the door and when she saw it was Peter, she was so over joyed that she left him at the door! She went and told the others who were praying that their prayers were answered. Peter was at the door! Those mighty prayer warriors responded, “Rhoda, you are crazy! There’s no way Peter could be at the door, he’s in prison!” What great faith! Peter kept knocking, and when they saw him, they were astonished! These people were praying, but they were battling with skepticism! We do the very same thing!

Prayer wrestles with self. Often we view prayer as if it was a vending machine. We insert the coins of faith, select a personal petition, and out comes our treat to be consumed upon ourselves. Selfish desires choke off the purpose and power of prayer. We must fight to expand the circle of our prayer cover!

Prayer wrestles with the spirit world. Put it down, Satan hates prayer! Satan hates an Epaphras, a praying saint. Daniel prayed and it invoked spiritual warfare, even between nations! We are involved in a spiritual struggle! Our weapons are not carnal, but mighty to the pulling down of strong holds!

A dear Japanese man, Masa Yuke Noda was working and worshiping with us, as he attended Bible college. When it came time for Bro. Noda to pray, he was silent. The silence seemed to go on forever, but soon Bro. Noda said, “Lord, I don’t feel like praying. It’s hard to pray in English. My heart is very far from you, but Lord I need to pray, it’s time to pray.” Bro. Noda kept praying, and as he did so, the whole room was filled with the presence of God. I will never forget the struggle of that one man to pray and the great victory which followed!

Praise God, the victory is worth the struggle! As someone has said, “Pray, until you pray!” When sin accuses you, claim the blood of Christ, turn it over to the Lord. When work pressures you, feel the greater pressure to keep praying! When thoughts invade your mind, pray them into the captivity of Christ. When doubt creeps up, visualize Jesus as your own personal High Priest, listening intensely as He has promised, and boldly, faithfully, go again to the throne of grace in prayer. We must view prayer as a struggle. Pin down the adversary again and again! The gain is worth the pain. The result is worth the struggle! Be faithful, fervent, focused and fight in your prayers and you just might find yourself mature and fully assured in the will of God!

Is your prayer life victorious? Partner with God, He’s waiting to connect with you.

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