Honest Prayers

Now, what about this matter of agonizing in prayer? Are you supposed to make a production of it? No, not necessarily. But there is an earnestness in prayer that takes you beyond the polite little speeches that we generally give to God and label as prayers.

Scripture: Colossians 4:12


Alright, thank you very much, and hello again dear radio friends, how in the world are you? You doing alright at your house, oh I trust so. Bless your heart. I almost said, okay, but somebody sent me a hot letter and said, “How dare you use that expression, okay”. Well, I didn’t know that it was sinful (Laughs), but if it bothers anybody I just won’t okay anything, I’ll just use something else.

Oh, I love you and I’m glad to be back with you, bless your heart. I look forward to these times on the radio like a missionary looks forward to furlough. I always feel rested and refreshed and challenged in my own heart after I’ve shared something from God’s precious infallible, inherent, eternal Word shared it with you. My beloved friends, God bless you. Thanks for being there.

We’re looking now at Colossians Chapter 4, we commented it on a man named Justus, the last time we got together. Now we’re looking at Epaphoris or Epaphras it’s strange how impressions linger with you when I was in seminary Dr. Maxwell insisted that we call him Epaphras and I’ve done all the time since 1938 or 1939. In your King James Version, you’ll find the accent on the first syllable, Epaphras. But he used to say, “call him Epaphras, Epaphras sounds too much like sassafras”, well whatever. I call him Epaphras because that’s my habitual way of handling it through the years “who is one of you a servant of Christ saluteth you. Always laboring fervently for you in prayers that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him record that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.” Epaphras.

That’s interesting isn’t it? He was a special kind of a person. And we want just to learn something from the description that Paul gives about him, he said, “Who is one of you”, that means he came from Colossi. He was a hometown boy and so they knew him, Epaphras one of you. Have you given thought to your influence on people whom you know really well? Have you given thought to your influence on people who know you real well, Epaphras who is one of you. See, when people know you as they knew Epaphras in Colossi, they know your good points but they also know your faults and your shortcomings and it is probably the hardest assignment in the world to influence for God those who know you humanly with your faults. They may love you, but they also discount you at certain points.

You may have difficulty with statistics for example; I had a man working for me years ago whom you never could believe on his statistics. He would rattle off a string of figures and invariably they would be inaccurate. I always checked his expense account more than once because invariably, he didn’t mean to be dishonest, I am convinced of that, but that was his weakness and other people, of course, have a very short fuse, they lose their temper easily. With some people, of course, it gets to be an act that they put on. I remember how devastated I was when a Christian brother had a tantrum in my office and stormed out and I was completely broken by it just on the verge of tears. And I said to Ted Engstrom, who in those days was Executive Director of Youth for Christ. He went on of course to be president of Youth for Christ and now for many years has headed up the work of World Vision, a precious brother in the Lord, but in those days we were working side by side.

And I said to Ted Engstrom, “Ted I don’t know what to do with this man.” I was completely upset. He burst out laughing and I thought, oh how callus can you be, you know? I said, “What’s the matter with you? You’re laughing?” He said, “Bob don’t you realize that’s an act. That’s an act that he puts on to get his own way.” Well no I hadn’t realized it and that was the first time I realized that people did that sort of thing, I guess I was pretty naïve. I was in my 30s then and I had never realized that people would put on an act in order to get their own way. Ah, yes they do.

They do, some are inaccurate, and some have a short fuse, and some put on an act, and some are proud, and some are easily hurt and offended, and some are greedy, and some push their way through a situation. You know, “First me, then me, after that you, but not for long time” as the Pennsylvania Dutch proverb goes.

We’re all human beings and we all have our faults, alright having said that you have to admit that the people who live with you and with whom you live day by day have you pretty well analyzed; they know you. So there is a significance, then, in what Paul’s says here, “Epaphras who is one of you a servant of Christ”.

What will make me effective for God with people who know me and who know my faults? Have you thought about that? Well, here you have the answer beloved. Epaphras who is one of you, if you stop there you’d say, “Well Epaphras had his faults just like we all do” and they probably discounted some things that he said and did because of that. But he goes on to say, “Epaphras who is one of you a servant of Christ”, dulas, slave of Christ.

You see an imperfect human being who is absolutely committed to the Lord Jesus Christ is credible because you already have freely confessed that you deserve nothing but judgment and Hell except for the grace of the God and that all of your standing is in Him not in yourself, “Ye are complete in Him who is the fullness of him that filleth all in all”. Your completion, your credibility, your influence, and your whole destiny is wrapped up in the Lord Jesus Christ.

You want to become credible to your family, the people who criticized you for leaving the cap off the toothpaste, or staying too long in the bathroom while you’re putting on your face in the morning, ladies? Do you want to become credible to your family, the people who laugh when you tried to give a testimony for Christ? Just get to be known as a person who is absolutely sold out to Jesus, so that you as a fragile human being with shortcomings and failings certainly, can be identified as one who loves Jesus most of all and tries to put Him first all the time, that in all things He might have, Paul says, the preeminence.

That’s what made Epaphras credible, that’s what made him believable, that’s what gave him influence with him hometown people. Yes, Jesus said a prophet is not without honor save in his own country. People will honor you where they don’t know you too well but where they really know you, it’s pretty hard to get much recognition unless that is you’ll get that recognition by virtue of your devotion to your Savior, a servant, a dulas, a slave of Christ, that makes the difference. It’s a great truth isn’t, try it on for size today with people who you know and who know you.

“Epaphras salutes you always laboring fervently for you in prayer that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God”. Now we won’t finish this today I’ll have to come back to it the next time we get together but let’s start. He says, “Always laboring fervently for you in prayers”. Now what is that word labor, it’s not the usual word for work. It is a word from which we get our expression agonizing. “Hantoti” that means always, “agonijaminas” agonizing over you. The word is “hooper,” up over, in your stead, in his prayers.

Now, what about this matter of agonizing in prayer? Are you supposed to make a production of it? No, not necessarily but there is an earnestness, there is an earnestness in prayer that takes you beyond the polite little speeches that we generally give to God and label them prayers. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much”, say James. “Who in the days of his flesh,” says the writer to the Hebrews speaking of the Lord Jesus, “the days of his flesh offered up prayers with strong crying and tears that was heard and that he feared.”

Prayers, what about that? How much laboring in prayer do you do? Well, let’s think about it for a moment. Number one there has to be something worth laboring for. Much of our praying is pointless and shallow because we’re not really saying much to God. We thank Him that He’s on the job, we asked Him to bless all our loved ones, and we try to sort of cover the bases and sign off. John Knox, I saw the house where he used to live there in Scotland in Edinburgh, John Knox crying out in prayer, “Lord, give me Scotland or I’ll die”, that’s laboring in prayer.

David Brainerd out in the midst of the woods praying until his whole body was suffused with perspiration; the Indians on one occasion had come out to kill him standing awed around him at the sight of a man praying for them, so praying so hard that his whole body was just wrung with sweat. This is prayer, see? A laboring fervently for you in prayer, you have to have something worthwhile praying for. I’m a great believer and having a prayer list instead of making an empty speech to God now and again in order to make your conscience feel better why not have some things that really matter about which you are talking to your heavenly Father.

I’ve been in some meetings where people labored in prayer. Years ago I was in Toronto in a series of meetings and my good friend, Jim Mercer, who is an Evangelist had a night off he also was in meetings but it was a Monday night and they didn’t have meetings on a Monday night and so he came up to see me and after my own meeting was over. I said, “Come on up to the place where I’m staying and let’s have some prayer.” “Oh,” he said, “that’s fine because he said I’m burdened about some things too.” So we went to up to this room that I had, it was a little old plastered tomb of a hotel not very elegant but it was all we can afford.

So he knelt down on one side of the bed and I on the other side and we began to pray. I prayed a while and then he prayed, and he began to talk to God about things that were on his heart and as he prayed his whole body began to tremble so much that the whole bed was shaking in response to the trembling of his own body, the earnestness with it he cried out to God of revival; that’s laboring in prayer. No, you can’t fake that beloved, you’ve got to have a burden and we’re going to talk about a burden of prayer the next time we get together, okay?

Dear Father today, may we know the blessing of Thy Holy Spirit in Jesus name, Amen.

Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!

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