Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. Colossians 4:12
Epaphras was always wrestling in prayer. I feel like I am always wrestling WITH prayer. First, I have trouble making time for it. If I pray as I go to bed, I usually drift off to sleep long before I get to ‘Amen’. I often try to pray during my 90 minutes in the car each day, but that’s not a time when I can provide God the focus He warrants, nor is it situation conducive to listening to what He has to say. Beyond the logistics, I wrestle with the purpose of prayer, and the older I grow in the faith, the harder I struggle. I’m embarrassed to admit my thoughts frequently differ little from those of an unbeliever as they descend into questions such as “What purpose do my prayers serve, God? Won’t You act according to your perfect will whether or not I pray for You to? Won’t You decline to agree to my requests whenever You have better ideas? If You know what I’m going to say before I say it, what purpose does it serve for me to even think the words?” The deeper the understanding of God’s absolute sovereignty I gain, the more I wrestle with such questions. Finally I give up and decide that what matters is that God calls me to pray, so I pray. I pray when I can, I pray when I or others around me are in need, I pray most often on those continual occasions during which God gives me reason to be thankful, and I pray when the Holy Spirit prompts me, as He did on one memorable occasion just over a year ago.
I was walking through a corridor at work that afternoon when I suddenly felt driven to revisit a prayer I hadn’t said for awhile. I thanked God for how perfectly formed my children were at birth, and how wonderfully healthy each had been since. I asked that He allow the three of them whatever colds and sniffles He needed them to experience for His purposes, but to remove from their bodies any and all serious, life-altering diseases the moment they begin to establish themselves. I asked Him to allow them whatever bumps, bruises, scrapes, and scratches He needs them to experience for His purposes, but to protect them from any and all serious or life-altering injuries. Amen.
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2
I neglected to be watchful. Why would I be watchful for an answer to such a prayer? I asked God to prevent something, so If God answered yes to this prayer, then I’d be unaware of it. A prevented event is after all a non-event.
Not eight hours later, I took my three-month-old son from my wife’s arms as she began putting our daughters to bed and headed downstairs. As I got to the top step, I noticed his pajamas sitting on the top of the safety gate. In a split-second reflex move I’d quickly regret, I turned to pick them up so that I could change him once downstairs. My hand never got to the clothes. Instead, my feet slipped out from under me, initiating the most terrifying two seconds of my life. My back crashed down flat along the slope of the steps and Nathan’s body, and particularly his head, came crashing down onto my chest. Off we went, sliding down the steps. I felt like someone was flat-out pounding me with 2x4s from head to heels. All I could think of though was what was happening to Nathan. Somehow I managed to keep a tight hold on him. Somehow I managed to keep him on top of me rather than tumbling and crushing him. When the ride ended, I was pretty sure that the only physical abuse he’d taken was when his head slammed into me. On the other hand, after unleashing a few livid screams he promptly shut his eyes and went into what appeared to be a deep sleep.
After a frightening few minutes I took off his outfit and with the help of the cold air, finally managed to wake him up. He looked at me and smiled. It was only then I was sure that his sudden sleep was a defense mechanism against the excitement and not an indication that something was seriously wrong. Finally I started breathing again, and that’s when I remembered my prayer.
I was and still am profoundly thankful, and since that evening I’ve learned much about being watchful. I continue to wrestle with prayer, but I continue to pray despite my frequent questions as I eagerly await the day when the preposition changes, and I become a believer always wrestling IN prayer.