Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;…
St. Paul draws the attention of the Colossians to two things.
I. GENERAL CONDITIONS OF SUCCESS IN PRAYER.
1. Perseverance. "Continue steadfastly in prayer." It is part of our spiritual education, teaching us dependence, trust, and patience. No "stock" of blessings given, but daily grace, bread, etc. Blessings may be withheld for a time because, in our present spiritual state, we cannot receive the full supply we shall be capable of after the discipline of persevering prayer. The gift will be in proportion to our faith (cf. Matthew 9:29; Mark 8:22-25). Hence the many exhortations to perseverance by parables (Luke 11:5-9; Luke 18:1-8), precepts (Romans 12:12; Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17, etc.), and recorded examples (Genesis 32:24; Exodus 32:9-13; Matthew 15:21-28; Acts 1:14; Acts 2:1-4. Paul's prayers (Philippians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:3, etc.; Colossians 4:12). Story of James the Just (Eusebius, bk. 2:23). If time forbids long continuance, there may be energy in brevity and steadfastness in persistent renewal of prayers (Psalm 55:17; Psalm 119:164, etc.).
2. Watchfulness. Be watchful during prayer, for the constant enjoyment of the inestimable privilege tends to routine, and our spiritual foes are ever ready to distract our minds and spoil our prayers. Chrysostom saith, "The devil knoweth how great a good prayer is." The messenger prayer is too often despatched without any definite message. "Ye know not what ye ask;" "Ye have not because ye ask not." Contrast our Lord's prayers and St. Paul's with the vague, sleepy supplications we know too much about, if we thus watch in prayer we may watch after it, expecting the blessings which are on their way to us (cf. Daniel 9:23; Daniel 10:12).
3. Thanksgiving. (Philippians 4:6.) Our thanksgiving will include that Divine system of mediation and intercession by which we sinners have access to God; all the past answers to prayer we have received through Christ (Psalm 63:7; Psalm 116:1, 2), and all the promises he has given. In this spirit we shall also be able to thank him for what he has deferred (Illustrations: Job and "the end of the Lord," James 5:11) and what he denies. For if we pray with submission for temporal blessings, we lay upon God the responsibility of choosing for us. Plato ('Alcibiades,' bk. 2) praises one of the ancient poets for prescribing this form of prayer: "Grant to us thy blessings whether we pray for them or withhold our prayers, and repel from us all evils even though we pray for them." With fuller knowledge we may offer the same prayer for temporal blessings "with thanksgiving" (Psalm 84:11; Matthew 6:32), while in regard to spiritual blessings there need be no such conditional uncertainty (Matthew 7:9-11; John 14:13, 14).
II. SPECIAL SUBJECTS FOR PRAYER. (Vers. 3, 4.) The requests are very personal, for Paul, Timothy, Epaphras, etc. The apostle's condition imposed limitations which he desired might be removed "for the gospel's sake." These prayers were answered (Philemon 1:22). By prayer doors were opened in the first century (Romans 15:19, etc.), and still are (China, Africa, Madagascar, etc.). This spread of the gospel may still be used as an argument for the divinity of the gospel, as it was by Clement of Alexandria: "The Grecian philosophy, if any magistrate forbade it, immediately died away; but our doctrine, even from the first preaching of it, kings, generals, and magistrates prohibited it; nevertheless, it does not droop like human doctrine, but flourishes the more." Similar prayers for pastors and missionaries are still needed, and may be enforced by various motives; e.g.:
1. Our necessity; for the work is too great for us apart from the help given through prayer.
2. Our trials. Illustrate from Paul's ordinary sources of anxiety (2 Corinthians 11:1-3, 28, 29; Galatians 4:19, etc.).
3. Our dangers. For we are the mark of many of the fiery darts of the wicked one, and if we fall it is "as when a standard bearer fainteth."
4. Our responsibilities. (Hebrews 13:17.) We have to speak "the mystery of Christ," and desire "to make it manifest as we ought to speak." How much this implies (Ephesians 6:19, 20)! We aim at the sublimest results (Colossians 1:28, 29).
5. Our equitable claims. A plea especially appropriate to pastors, called by a Church to their post of duty and of trust. To restrain prayer is the most lamentable meanness, for it impoverishes the pastor's or missionary's soul (2 Thessalonians 3:1, 2, etc.). - E.S.P.
Parallel VersesKJV: Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;