Epaphras prayed not for himself but for others. He was an intercessor! He maintained a long prayer list. Paul went on record as to the fact that Epaphras worked hard at praying for his back-home friends and also for God's children in Laodicea and Hierapolis He had a personal interest in all believers and without doubt prayed every day for those that he knew. Paul wrote, "He prays hard for you all the time, that you will stand fast with deep convictions and firm devotion to God's will.
I must confess to you at the very beginning of this message that I am not yet an intercessor like Epaphras who was "always laboring fervently in prayer for others." I am still learning how to intercede for others in prayer. However, I can tell you that I am a better intercessor than I once was and the more time I give interceding for others, the more excited I am over the ministry of intercession.
In the discourse of my message to you I would (1) Dwell on the remarkable features of Epaphras's character: (2) I would mention the manner in which he prayed, and (3) I would have you see that for which he prayed.
Epaphras, The Intercessor
Paul calls him a "servant of Christ." He was a prisoner in Rome, one of several fellow prisoners mentioned by Paul. Reading verses 1:7,8 we are led to think that Epaphras was the Pastor of the Church in Colosse. Paul loved him as a " dear fellow servant" who had great concern for them all.
Paul was a writer. Epaphras wrote nothing; he was a praying man. It is not said that he had visions, or that he was used to write with inspiration the Word of God. His responsibility was to pray for others. He was not like Paul who wrote letters that would give us a great portion of the New Testament. This is not to say that Epaphras was weak in other areas of God's work, but he had a "special call" from God to pray; and he worked hard and consistently in his called area of responsibility.
Prayer Was His Occupation
To Epaphras, prayer was a holy occupation. The manner in which he prayed testified that this was his main job. To him prayer was everything. How many use prayer only as a last resort? The fact is that "the job" of every Christian is to pray.
Where is the man or woman who will be a "full time" intercessor? Most feel that we want to do something more than simply pray. We want to do something important for God. We want to show our abilities and display personal influence. Some think prayer to be a small endeavor in Christian service that must be casual and devotional; something of a last resort. To Epaphras prayer was the first line of defense. Many pray when there is nothing else we can do. Jesus wants us to pray before we do anything at all.
The day is upon all believers that demands we pray always about everything. Obviously we are living in end-time days and we must learn to pray with end-time urgency. End-time evangelism must be fortified with end-time praying. Someone has said, "God wants us to talk with Him about the lost before we talk to the lost about Him."
For all believers, prayer must be our business and for some who are called, it must be our only business. Prayer must be our holy occupation. Many cannot speak well, but all can pray. The manner of our prayer life must be with great zeal, "always laboring fervently."
Why is it that we Christians do not pray more? Because prayer is work! Prayer, most especially intercessory prayer, is hard labor. Prayer is an act of obedience to God Who commands us to pray without ceasing. Prayer demands energy spent. Prayer is 'done' by an act of the will... great effort must be put forth. Prayer is a deliberate act of obedience to God's Word that commands us to "pray always."
The Prayer Of Epaphras
Paul, writing to the citizens of Colosse, tells us that the prayer of Epaphras was: "that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God." Note the main theme of Epaphras' prayer. One would think that he mainly prayed for revival or for the lost to be saved. However, Paul tells us that Epaphras always labored fervently in prayer for his brothers and sisters in Christ.
From Jabez we learn how to pray for our self. From Epaphras we learn how to pray for others. Many people, including my dearly departed mother, prayed for me to be saved and I am most grateful, but I am equally grateful for those who intercede for me daily that I shall complete the will of God. I am under girted and edified in the faith by those who remember to pray for me.
Paul felt it his duty to join Epaphras in praying for others: "For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God."
It was for Christians that Epaphras prayed day after day with intense earnestness. This was an indirect way of winning the lost to Christ, for if believers get more of God's grace, they will go and tell the lost of Jesus. It is difficult to find soul winners, but more difficult to find Epaphrases to pray for them. The cold, reluctant inconsistencies of Christian workers are an immense hindrance to the winning of souls. When the workers are full of the Holy Spirit and have a love for souls, the lost see in them something that the world cannot give.
When we intercede for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we must pray the prayer of Epaphras "that they might be perfect and complete in all the will of God."
In Acts 6:1-7 we have a perfect example of what happens when we pray for others; the Word of God increases, the number of the disciples multiplies, and a great company of the priest were obedient to the faith. All local church problems can be solved through intercessory prayer. "But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word." (Acts 6:4)
Becoming more of an intercessor I have discovered great excitement in the closet of prayer. It is indeed exciting to pray for others. According to Andrew Murray, prayer is the most dynamic opportunity available to God's children. It not only strengthens our own faith, but it enables us to intercede for others with tremendous results. Nothing will so test and stimulate the Christian life as the honest attempt to be an intercessor.
The kindest and most rewarding thing that we can do for others is to pray the Epaphras prayer for them: "that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God." Such interceding for God's children will indirectly bring many to Christ and fill our life with joyful victory and direct favoritism from our Lord and Master Christ Jesus. Andrew Bonar said, " If you are not always laboring fervently in prayer you will be dwarfed Christians."
I dare not close this message without an appeal to you to become intercessors for the lost souls among and around us. We must be conscious of the perishing millions. Weep for them in sincere love, yet without interceding in prayer our love and expressed concern will be in vain. Pray for the lost in our homes. Call the names of family loved ones who shun the Savior's love. Without ceasing pray the convicting power of the Holy Spirit upon members of your household. Intercede for the millions who bow before false gods. Pray for the atheist who laugh and deny the reality of your faith. Intercede to the God of light for blinded eyes to be opened to the truths of the gospel.
God seeks intercessors. I challenge the dear Christians in this congregation to establish a ministry of intercession. Repent of the terrible sin of prayerlessness and become labors of fervent prayer to intercede for the lost as well as for redeemed believers.