Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you. He is always wrestling in his prayers on your behalf, so that you may stand mature and fully assured in everything that God wills. For I testify for him that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis.
I think that my seminary professor Howard Hendricks talked so much about prayer because he had witnessed the power of prayer. He told us about a time when he served a church in Dallas that was desperate to find someone to teach a class of junior high boys. Sadly, the list of prospective teachers had been narrowed down to just one man. When Hendricks was told about that man, he said, “You’ve got to be kidding! Not him!” But Hendricks said that he could not have been more wrong. That man took the class of junior high boys and transformed it.
Hendricks was so impressed with what he saw happening in the lives of those junior high boys that he invited the man to lunch. Hendricks wanted to learn his secret. The man pulled out a little black book. On each page of the book was a picture of one of the boys, his name, and comments like, “Having trouble with math,” or “He comes to church without his parents.” The man explained to Hendricks, “I pray over these names every day, and I can hardly wait to see the boys on Sunday and see what God has done in their lives.” Hendricks wanted us students to know that when we pray for others and for God’s will in their lives, we will be amazed watching God work!
That faithful teacher of junior high boys was like Epaphras in today’s Scripture. Epaphras was a prisoner for Christ in Rome alongside the apostle Paul. Paul loved Epaphras as “a servant of Christ Jesus”, and tells how he worked hard in praying for his fellow Christians in Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. Paul described Epaphras to them as “always wrestling in his prayers on your behalf.” He must have had quite a prayer list to pray for all his friends in those three cities. Paul says that Epaphras’ prayer for them was that they “stand mature and fully assured in everything that God wills.”
Once as I was preparing a funeral for a woman, her son gave to me the woman’s Bible full of verses underlined, notes jotted in margins, and clippings placed between pages. I was humbled to discover, when in paging through her Bible, I saw my name on the list of people she prayed for daily. I had to wonder at how her prayers had blessed and influenced me.
The Bible commands, “Pray for one another” (James 5:16a). One of the greatest gifts you can give to other people is to pray for them. Few things are more Christ-like than praying for them. And in praying for them you will find your love for them growing. You will begin to see them more and more as God sees them.
Take a few moments to reflect on people you know who have prayed for you. Express thanks to God for them and for their prayers. If any of these people are still living, give them your thanks.
Write down the names of some people for whom you want to pray on a regular basis, maybe daily or at least weekly.
Some people find it helpful to assign different categories of people to different days of the week. For instance, on SUNDAYS you pray for your pastor, church leaders, and other churches. On MONDAYS you pray for government, the president, congress, courts, governor, mayor, etc. Continue with categories for the remaining days of the week.
Now pray for the people on today’s list. You might want to make comments alongside their names regarding how you sense God wanting you to pray.
“True intercession involves bringing the person, or the circumstance that seems to be crashing in on you, before God, until you are changed by His attitude toward that person or circumstance…People describe intercession by saying, ‘It is putting yourself in someone else’s place.’ That is not true! Intercession is putting yourself in God’s place; it is having His mind and His perspective.”
Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest