Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. (Colossians 4:2-4)
In your mind’s eye, picture a rescue operation. At the top of a high cliff, rescue workers are arriving to help victims trapped in the rocks far below. The rumbling dark clouds in the distance tell them that they don’t have much time for the rescue. Once the torrential rains begin, the area could be littered with landslides as boulders careen down the steep cliff.
“We’ve got to move now!” the leaders shout.
“It’s now or never.”
As those rescuers begin to strap on their harnesses, others prepare to hold the ropes for the steep descent. As the climbers step off the cliff, they know that they are absolutely dependent upon the skill and faithfulness of those who are holding the ropes.
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Colosse, he probably had a similar picture in mind. He desperately needed opportunities to be able to rescue helpless victims. He needed “a door for the Word” to be opened to him. This message was “the mystery of Christ,” the precious good news of the Gospel. Paul explained that he was put into prison for preaching the Gospel, but he understood that “stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage.”1 The apostle knew that God could turn his prison into a rescue operation for others. But he needed “rope holders;” he needed their prayers.
Rescue operations such as this give a new urgency to the teaching of Colossians 4:2. If we are to “rescue the perishing,” we must have the help of prayerful “rope holders.”
How can those who are holding the ropes be watchful? They must begin with giving thanks. “Watch in the same with thanksgiving,” takes on new importance when you are part of a rescue operation. When others are desperately depending upon you to watch faithfully, it adds a sense of responsibility.
It’s easy to think that Christian leaders don’t need you. Nothing could be further from the truth. Paul needed the humble prayers of the Colossian Christians to succeed. Your leaders are dependent upon your prayers as well. If the rope holders were to “slack off,” you can only imagine the terror of the rescuer descending the cliff. In the same way, we must be thankful and thorough as we prayerfully “hold the ropes” for Christian workers, Bible teachers and preachers.
If you were up on the cliff, unable to peer into the depths, you would wonder what is happening below. So the apostle Paul instructed believers into exactly how to pray – showing them what they were accomplishing as a prayer team. Paul asked them to pray for
—— Opportunities: a door for the Gospel message would be opened to him
——Clarity of thought and speech: that his message to others would be clear
In this season of prevailing prayer, as we enter into new Gospel endeavors, let’s faithfully hold the ropes. Let’s thank God for the opportunities that He will open up to us. Let’s praise Him when the Gospel is delivered with clarity.
Prayer project: Put together a list of Gospel ministry projects, including the names of Christian workers, Bible teachers and Bible preachers. Then ask the Lord to give them opportunities to deliver the message in a clear manner.
— Gordon Dickson
I Asked the Lord That I Might Grow
I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.
’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.
I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.
Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds*, and laid me low.
Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.
These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”
*(here used to symbolize our idolatrous desire to substitute God’s gifts for God himself. See Jonah 4.)
– Rev. John Newton, 1779