How to pray in prison, part 3

prison bars

These bars, if we are not careful, can incarcerate our prayer lives. 

In the last two posts, we have been discussing the answer to the question, “How do we pray while in prison?”

From the prison epistles – Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians (also includes Philemon) – we understand that the apostle Paul maintained his ministry of prayer while under lock-and-key.

Ephesians tells us we need “power to stand” in the face of the prison of the devil’s schemes. Philippians informs that we need “power to be content” when material needs attempt to incarcerate us. This brings us to Colossians.

Paul evidences his concern for the Colossians in the first chapter of this epistle. He says, “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (1:9-10 ESV).

While there was cause for concern for the believers at Colossae, the apostle knew that writing a letter would not be enough. Not only did those believers need instruction, but prayer. A commentary on the subject posits, “Prayer must be more than simply a devotional habit in the Christian’s life. It must be a ministry, both in the lives of individual Christians and within the life of the local church.”

Paul models this beautifully, and does so with a Roman soldier constantly reminding him of his chains (Acts 28:16). In writing to the Colossians, he identifies another prison in the life of the believer, and how we can emulate his resolve to pray.

Prison #3: Stewardship of Suffering

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (1:24-29 ESV)

This lengthy passage actually has a simple takeaway. Paul does not deny his suffering, but rejoices in it. The reason he is able to do this is simple: his suffering is the direct result of his stewardship from God.

Preaching the gospel had gotten Paul into plenty of trouble. He had been stoned, beaten, mocked and jailed (on more than one occasion). The stewardship of being a minister of the gospel, however, was his motivation to continue. Paul declares, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24 ESV).

What do we do when our stewardships necessitate that we incur hardship? How do we maintain a posture of prayer in such situations?


Paul says to the Colossians, “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (1:29). Notice, though, that this struggle is not with Paul’s own energy, but by the grace that Christ gives through the Holy Spirit.

The Christian life is one that requires toil. Proverbs 14:23 assures us, however, “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty” (ESV). Philippians 2:13 adds, “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (ESV). Stewardships, ultimately, are from God and for God, while also being brought to completion by him. Our role is to simply be the vessel God uses to accomplish his purposes.

Doing God’s will, most assuredly, will result in suffering. First Timothy 3:12 offers, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (ESV). A godly life in Christ is not one simply marked by good morals, but by personal advancement of the kingdom of God. In the words of Paul, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me” (Phil. 1:21-22a ESV).

We will experience opposition when pursuing the kingdom through fulfilling our God-given stewardships. This, however, is not cause for gloom, but rejoicing and prayer. Paul understood this, and was not only able to show care for the church (even though, as he says, he was suffering on their behalf), but did not cease to pray for them.

Let us, then, follow his example and admonishment: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2 ESV).


~ by christianballenger on February 29, 2016.

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