That was part of the veteran missionary and Apostle Paul’s instructions to the believers in the Colossian Church in 4:2-3. His full statement was “Continue earnestly in prayer being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains…” The term “earnestly” could also be translated “steadfastly” or “fervently”. The idea is to engage in focused, intentional and resolute prayer. He also uses the term “vigilant” which means to be watchful in prayer – that term vigilant describes what is expected of a soldier guarding something or someone; they are to be wide-awake and on duty at their post. What was Paul asking this church to pray so intently about? He wanted them to pray to God with a thankful heart because God is the only God able to hear and answer prayer. But his specific request was for an open door for his missionary team to proclaim the word of God and preach the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul was encouraging these believers to continue to pray earnestly and vigilantly for him and those with him as they proclaimed the Gospel and the Word of God.
Having just returned from an incredible trip to Africa, I feel a bit like the Apostle Paul because it was evident to all of us on our team and our missionaries there that God’s people were earnestly and vigilantly praying for us as we went out into the bush to engage people with the word of God and the message of Christ. Being on the receiving end of these kinds of prayers over the course of this trip, I have a renewed appreciation for the importance of prayer in furthering the work of the Kingdom. It is vital for the people of God to pray for the work of God whether here at Calvary or across the ocean reaching people without access to the Gospel.
Before we left the country, we left a daily prayer list and prayer cards for our church family to have so you would know how to pray specifically for this trip. In looking at that list of items we asked you to pray about, I think nearly every one of those prayer requests was answered. There were some we may not know how they were answered until we get to Heaven, but I know many of the measurable requests we saw answered in a God sized way. We’re looking forward to sharing about our trip during the Bible Study hour at 9:45 on Sunday March 11. Everyone from grade school, youth and adult classes will meet in the Sanctuary to hear this report. (For our devoted preschool workers, our team will be happy to come speak with you if you miss the report).
I will share a quick account of how your prayers were answered specifically. The last day of going to the bush, three of us men drove an hour and a half one way across non-paved roads/desert sand to go meet a man who was at best a “folk medicine man” or at worst an outright “witchdoctor.” The drive out to this place was quite rigorous (that’s a polite way to say it felt like it beat us to death) and I started to get sick about 15 minutes from our destination since I was in the back seat. Fortunately I recovered quickly when we arrived (answer to prayer). We met the man we were looking for riding out of his village to town on his horse. If we’d have been a mere 5 minutes later, we’d have missed him and driven out there for nothing. He forgot we were coming but God orchestrated it so we’d connect with him out there in the middle of nowhere. We went to his thatched roof hut/compound and sat in the shade to tell him Bible stories. I had the story of God healing Naaman in mind to share in order to make the point that God heals in ways so He alone gets the credit. However, our host was a hyper little man and he never really sat still long enough to talk. Instead, he got word to a number of other men in the area and before long about 10 men were in front of us to listen to Bible stories. Our missionary looked at me and said “tell the parable of the sower.” So I applied my principle of being flexible and told that parable and explained it’s meaning – of course through our missionary who interpreted for me and this took quite a while. I made the point Jesus made “He who has ears to hear let him hear.” We told them we had more stories to tell if they had ears to hear and that God wants them to produce fruit for Him. It turns out one of these men was the chief who is in control of this area. Our missionary shared with us later he had met the chief once before and basically said unless we were there to put in a well for them, he didn’t want to hear anything we had to say and we wouldn’t have permission to talk to his people. This time however, the chief said he wanted to hear more and invited the missionary (and us) to come back! He thanked me repeatedly as we walked to our truck to leave!
Only God could orchestrate such a dramatic change of attitude in one key man’s heart. God orchestrated the timing of our visit and that our medicine man contact was the means to introduce us to whom we were really there to see, the chief. Coincidence? Luck? Good fortune? No way! It was because God’s people were earnestly and vigilantly praying for us – for an open door to the word and to preach Christ. So my encouragement to you is to “Continue earnestly in prayer...” We must pray earnestly for God’s work in and through each of us believers. Prayer is the weapon Satan has no ability to stop (Eph.6:18), whether we go down the street to talk to our lost neighbor, our lost co-workers, classmates, or some village chief on the other side of the globe. The prayers of the saints of God have incredible impact for God’s kingdom and in encouraging saints who are in distress. Continuing earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving, from my little corner of the world to yours…
Pastor Ralph Green
Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church www.calvarybelair.com