There are three central aspects of the Christian life which are always intertwined, and they are found together in today’s passage: people, prayer and proclamation. (I know, but I’m a preacher!) The first significant thing is that Paul knew he needed help. We’ll see this later in the chapter, but in today’s passage he deliberately underlines his need of others – including new believers in this small and fledgling church. ‘Pray for us’, he says (v 3). Pray that I’ll be able to do the job. I need your help. So it is for each of us: we need others, however experienced in the faith we might be.
The heart of Paul’s request is for prayer. Three key words in verse 2 need to be applied to our prayers. Devote implies true commitment, perseverance, faithfully praying day after day. Later he refers to Epaphras, ‘always wrestling in prayer’ (Colossians 4:12). It’s a tough job and we must be determined. Watchful is language from guard duty. The Colossians were under threat from false teaching and, unlike the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, they and we must keep alert as we pray. Thankfull should always be the attitude underlying our intercession. We are watchful, but not anxious. Thankfulness runs through the whole letter and should be the atmosphere in which we make all of our requests to the Father (Colossians 1:3,4,12; 2:7; 3:15,16,17).
The purpose is proclamation. Paul needs prayerful support because he must ‘proclaim the mystery of Christ’ (v 3), because doors need to open for that to happen and because he needs to proclaim it clearly (v 4). He continues that theme by highlighting the responsibility of the Colossians to grasp every opportunity to speak the truth with wisdom and grace (vs 5,6). People, prayer and proclamation: we need all three.