You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. (Colossians 1:7-8 NIV)
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 NIV)
Paul ends many of his letters with greetings to specific people in the location he is writing to. Colossians is no different. I want to focus in on Epaphras. We aren’t told what title Epaphras had, but his role seems clear. He is a servant and continues to minister to the church in Colossae. Many of the disciples in Colossae have received the good news from him and become followers of Jesus. He apparently has some questions or concerns and wants to get Paul’s input on them. He is so committed to getting these things addressed that he travels almost 1300 miles to reach Rome where Paul is being held prisoner. Since we have this letter, we must assume that Epaphras reached Rome and was able to communicate with Paul. We don’t know what else he did while he was there, but he raised enough concern with the Romans to get himself arrested. (see Philemon 1:23)
Very few people in ministry would think that they could help their church the most by leaving. Yet, that is exactly what Epaphras did. At 15 miles per day it would have taken 3 months to get from Colossae to Rome. At a minimum he would be gone for 6 months and as it turned out it was much longer due to his arrest and imprisonment.
Epaphras spends his time in prison wrestling in prayer. In Greek the word translated “wrestling” in verse 12 means to engage in an athletic contest. Other places it is translated “strive” or “fight”. The word implies competition and struggle. I think this implies an intensity in prayer that I’ve rarely experienced. Epaphras cannot know what is happening back in his home church. He does the one thing he can do. Like Jacob in the Old Testament he wrestles with God in prayer for the perseverance of the church he loves. He prays as if their lives depend on his prayers. I can think of more people than I can count that I should be praying for in this way. Epaphras certainly thought that prayer mattered, and we should too.
For my grandchildren:
Pray with the intensity you bring to athletic competition.
I discovered a new website that you might find helpful during my study for this blog. It is a variation on the Bible atlas and provides interesting information on the people and places of the Bible. Take a look at what it has to say about the book of Colossians.