In closing his letter to the Colossians, Paul gave some greetings, including one from Epaphras: “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God” (Col 4:12 ESV).
As simple as this verse is, it gives us some helpful points in how Epaphras prayed for others and how we can pray for others today.
The first two points involve being consistent and diligent in prayer.
We should always pray for others.
Epaphras obviously did not literally pray 24/7. Paul’s “always” means that Epaphras constantly prayed for the Colossians as he had the opportunity to do so. We should look for times to pray for others and consistently make the most of these times.
We should strive in praying for others.
To “strive” or “struggle” in prayer is to work hard at it. The Greek verb here is agōnizomai from which we get our English verb agonize. To agōnizomai can mean performing as an athlete (cf. 1 Cor 9:25) or even fighting in battle with weapons (cf. John 18:36), both strenuous activities. Prayer for others should receive our diligent efforts all the same.
The next three points involve the content of our prayer.
We should pray for others to persevere.
Epaphras prayed for the Colossians to “stand” in two ways, “mature and fully assured in all the will of God.” While the tense of this verb suggests to some that Epaphras is thinking of something future (“may God make you to stand”), it is more likely that he prays for the Colossians to presently stand as they ought (thus, “may you stand”). Paul often uses the word stand (histēmi) with reference to the Christian holding to or persevering according to some aspect of his Christianity (cf. Rom 11:20; 14:4; 1 Cor 7:37; 10;12; 15:1; 2 Cor 1:24; Eph 6:11, 13, 14).1
Technicalities aside, we should pray for our fellow believers to persevere, especially in maturing as Christians and knowing the will of God.
That being said…
We should pray for the spiritual growth of others.
To be “mature” has the idea of being morally perfect. The Greek word teleios is elsewhere incompatible with a love for riches (Matt 19:21) and the misuse of the tongue (James 3:2). The word can thus describe God Himself (cf. Matt 5:48). Whatever the area of maturity may be, we should pray for our fellow believers to grow as Christians.
We should pray that others would confidently know God’s will.
Last, to “stand… fully assured in all the will of God” has the idea of knowing and being convinced of what God’s will is, thus allowing one to stand firm in it. Paul more or less prayed for the Colossians accordingly earlier in his letter, that they would “be filled with the knowledge of his will” and thus “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Col 1:9–10 ESV). Paul and Epaphras occasionally prayed together, to be sure, and it comes as no surprise to see that Epaphras prayed like Paul for the Colossians. We should pray for other believers in this same way.
Just a short description, but a great verse to give us an example for prayer—may we all pray like Epaphras!
- The verb histēmi in Col 4:12 is an aorist passive subjunctive. For a futurist understanding that gives weight to the passive tense, see Peter T. O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon (WBC 44; Dallas, TX: Word, 1982), 254. For an explanation as to why a present understanding of histēmi is best, see Douglas J. Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon (PNTC; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008), 344.