During my cancer journey in 2012, I was confined to a time and place. From start to finish in my treatment, I made the decision to remain in South Africa and do the healing work necessary to rid cancer from my body.
Because of the treatment schedule, the radiation treatment itself, and then the daily rest and recovery regime, I was locked into a very specific routine.
I chose my chains.
Some didn’t understand my decision at the time. Some thought I should fly back to the States and be treated there. Some thought the chain that I chose to be shackled to was not good enough.
For the sake of my family and for the known routine and life we shared together, remaining in South Africa to undertake whatever was ahead in my cancer journey seemed best.
Once the decision was made to stay and for me to be chained here, my family and countless friends and even strangers chose to bind themselves to me as well. They chose to pray like crazy for a missionary in South Africa who had breast cancer.
For this is what we do, don’t we?
When our family and friends enter into a difficult season whether it is because of a disease, like my cancer, or any number of crises, we join together, strap ourselves in for the ride and engage. And we don’t just engage, do we? We do battle. We chain ourselves to the cause and pray. We pray intense, agonizing, leave-nothing-back-put-it-all-on-the-line type prayers, right? We fall to our knees and beg for our God, our Healer, our Provider, our Savior, our Almighty God to move on behalf of our family member or friend. And we won’t stop praying until He does
This is what Epaphras did as well. He is counted as one of the most relentless, prayer warriors and fervent prayer ministers in Christ among the annals of time.
Wait a minute! Don’t you recognize the name of Epaphras?
To be fair, I confess I hadn’t paid this founder of the church of Colossae, much notice either.
Epaphras is mentioned a mere three times in the New Testament – in Colossians 1:7-8; 4:12-13 and Philemon 23. I never paid much heed to the man that Paul considered to be a faithful servant of the Lord. Paul described Epaphras in four different ways: dear fellow servant, faithful minister, bondservant, and fellow prisoner. However, if you weren’t paying attention, you would easily skim over his name and miss the significance of Epaphras altogether. You see, this man took the Gospel message to heart and chose to become a whole-heartedly devoted servant to the cause of Jesus Christ. He chained himself to Jesus Christ allowing himself to engage in prayer battles that are worthy of emulation.
What do I mean?
Check this out:
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. New International Version, Colossians 4:12 – 13
Epaphras identified with the people he prayed for and he prayerfully fought for them.
And when Epaphras prayed, he didn’t just read and pray through a prayer list.
Epaphras didn’t just go through the motions of “God is Great, God is Good. Let us thank Him for our…..”
Epaphras, didn’t just pray words so that others in the room might hear him.
Epaphras didn’t just pray for his own needs, either.
Epaphras labored in earnest prayer before his God on behalf of his church and for those who did not know his Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.
Epaphras prayed that the men, women, and children of Colossae and in the surrounding areas of Laodicea and Hierapolis would grow in their maturity of faith, fulfill their purpose in Christ, and complete their work.
After reading about Epaphras and his prayer life I had to ask, “Do I even come close to praying like Epaphras?”
First of all, take note of where Epaphras was when Paul wrote to the Colossians. Epaphras had made the long and arduous journey to visit Paul in a Roman prison. He came to inform Paul about what was happening with the Colossians and seek his counsel. However, he didn’t plan a short-stay with Paul. He either requested voluntary confinement or he was taken prisoner himself. He chose his chains in order spend time with Paul and to minister to his friend and mentor.
Epaphras purposely sequestered himself away from his family, his church, and the comforts of his day to day life, to care for a friend who needed him. And during this time of confinement, Epaphras prayed and prayed and prayed for the Message of Jesus Christ to be made known among his family, his friends, and his countrymen – despite his absence.
The prayers that Epaphras prayed were focused, persistent, intelligent, and filled with lament. He wrestled in prayer. To wrestle comes from the Greek transliterated word Agonizomai. Agonizomai means to contend, to struggle, and to endeavor for something with strenuous zeal, difficulty, or with agony without settling for failure or defeat.
Epaphras sought out the will of his God for those he passionately loved and intimately identified with in Collosae. I imagine that he didn’t always know what to pray for at times – being far away from home and not being able to hear the latest news. Thus, Epaphras sought the help of the Divine through intercession in prayer. However, not knowing what to pray for did not dissuade him from his warrior prayer life.
I believe that Paul lived out and may have prayed these words alongside his intercessor and friend, Epaphras while hidden away in a Roman cell:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. New International Version, Romans 8: 26-28.
For when we spend long periods of time with a person whom we trust, talking isn’t always necessary. There is care, assurance and comfort in the silence of an Abiding Presence.
Epaphras chose to chain himself to the ministry of prayer. His prayer life is one of conviction, strength and power because he was shackled to the One of Infinite Power.
We need more praying men, praying women, and praying children like Epaphras!
We need prayer warriors who will persist in their prayers and never give up!
We need intensity in our prayers!
We need conviction in our prayers!
We need to identify with the cares and concerns of others – whether its loneliness, depression, cancer, adultery, waywardness, poverty, famine, lack of faith, or whatever our fellow man is struggling with today.
We need to agonize and lament over those prayer needs – seeking God’s answers.
We need to seek the will of the Lord and for His work and purposes to be accomplished.
We need to seek the guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit to pray when words fail us.
We need to engage with what’s happening in this world and pray more!
Epaphras chained himself to Jesus Christ and then prayed like crazy.
Will we shackle ourselves and remain in prayer for those we love, for what they need, and for those who yet, need to hear the wonder of the Gospel Message? Will we lock ourselves in and pray with strenuous, agonizing conviction – come what may?