I. SOME ELEMENTS IN ALL TRUE PRAYER. And of these elements there is in the very front:
1. Constancy. “Continue steadfastly,” as the Revised Version has it. Not fitfully, occasionally, irregularly, but with steady constancy, pray.
(1) There, ought to be constancy because of the need there is. The need is perpetual, for the duties to be discharged to which prayer alone can help, and the dangers to be avoided from which prayer alone can deliver, are ever with us.
(2) There can be constancy, because the opportunity is always granted. There are avenues of religious help a man may close against his brother, but not this. Excommunicated, exiled, tortured, imprisoned, he can still pray. Wherever God is and a human soul is, there prayer can be. So Daniel, Jonah, Stephen, found.
2. Wakefulness. “Watching.” Not as a sleeper, but as a sentry, must the man be who prays. Understanding, emotion, will, must be awake, as he who guards the city is awake to hear the first footfall of a foe, to catch the first shadow of a danger. Not in dreamy lethargy can men pray. “No arrow of prayer can reach the sky that does not fly from a heart strongly bent as some elastic bow?
3. Gratitude. “With thanksgiving.” Thus the conception of prayer is widened, beyond that of mere petition, to that of intercourse. Prayer becomes a Eucharist. Indeed, thanksgiving is the crown and goal of prayer. Elsewhere the apostle similarly exhorts, “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known unto God.”
II. A SPECIAL SUBJECT FOR INTERCESSION. Paul thus bespeaks prayer for himself and his fellow workers both, to link himself in humbleness of heart to the Colossians. It is as though he said, “I need prayer as well as you.” And doubtless he also asks their prayers because he is conscious of necessity for such help as prayer can bring. For himself and his fellow workers he asks:
1. Prayer that they may have opportunity for work. “That God may open unto us a door.” To the mystery of the gospel there is the great obstacle of minds closed by prejudice, hearts closed by antipathy. The preacher, like his Lord, has to stand at the door and knock.
2. Prayer that shall be sympathetic with their sorrows. For he reminds them that he is “in bonds.” In every one of the Epistles of his captivity the apostle mentions this coupling chain which he felt to be thwarting, galling, humiliating. And their prayers must seek either that the chain be broken or the prisoner strengthened to endure.
3. Prayer that they may have fitness for their work. The one pressing want of their condition was “boldness.” Sometimes the main want is wisdom, sometimes patience, sometimes gentleness. Here, because of all that was around him and before him, he felt the supreme want was courage. And indeed, when is this not wanted by those who have to proclaim such a message as the gospel, to such souls as proud, selfish, self-willed men, for such a Master as the Christ who travails till victory is won? – U.R.T.