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31 August 2023

A Bible study on prayer


CMS missionary Rowan wrote this short Bible study to help the fellowship grapple with a section of the Bible focused on prayer for mission.

In Colossians 4:2-6, Paul asks his supporters to pray for him, and for the ministry that the Lord Jesus has called him to. Paul says:  

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2, ESV) 

By joining the words ‘continue’, ‘steadfast’, ‘watchful’ and ‘thanksgiving’, Paul draws together four aspects of Old Testament teaching about prayer: 

  • continually crying out day and night to God (e.g. Nehemiah 1:4),  
  • trusting steadfastly in God to hear our prayers (e.g. Isaiah 26:3),  
  • waiting and being watchful for God’s answers to the prayers (e.g. Psalm 130:6), and  
  • giving thanks to God when those answers appear (e.g. 1 Chronicles 16:34).  

Paul asks his supporters to pray because he knows that even though he can talk to people and he can write letters to churches and individuals, the effectiveness of those conversations and letters depends on God opening the door (verse 3) so that the good news of the gospel can go through.  

Paul lived in a time where there were no sensors that automatically opened doors as people approached them. Every door had to be physically opened. And in the spiritual world, it is the prayers of God’s people that open doors so that the good news of the gospel can be proclaimed. 

Questions 

1. Read Colossians 4:2-6 in three different translations. What does it mean to devote yourselves to prayer being watchful and thankful? To “devote” is a strong word in the present tense, implying ongoing persistence, dedication, and resolve. What other things can we tend to become devoted to instead of prayer?     

2. “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (verse 2). What does this command reveal about Paul’s understanding of the place of prayer in Christian ministry and service?

3. What do you think keeps most people from praying on a regular basis? What are some specific ways we can overcome those challenges?  

4.How do these verses encourage or challenge you as you pray for cross-cultural workers and the ministries they are involved in?

Download a printable version of this Bible study here.