Recently I read that prayer is communion with God, which means that it is relational in nature. Often we think of this relational aspect of prayer only at an individual level. But it is refreshing to note that this relational aspect of prayer extends horizontally, that is, to include others.
Epaphras, a fellow servant of Christ and companion of the Apostle Paul, models this relational aspect of prayer for us, as he wrestles with in prayer for fellow believers in Colossae.
“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.” (Col. 4:12 NIV, emphasis added)
But what exactly is involved in “wrestling in prayer”? First, let’s look at the word “wrestling.” “Wrestling” is from the Greek agonizomai, from which we get “agonize.” The word has in mind contending and agonizing strenuously through blood, sweat and tears. This is the word picture behind Epaphras “wrestling in prayer.”
Second, this “wrestling in prayer” has in mind the will of God–“that you may stand firm in all the will of God.” We are reminded of Jacob’s wrestling with God back in Genesis 32. It was a life-changing event in the life of Jacob, and subsequently, his offspring and all of humanity.
Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome. (Gen. 32:28 NIV, emphasis added)
Yes, God gives Jacob a new name to mark a life-changing moment. God was in the process of fulfilling his promise to Jacob’s grandfather Abraham (Gen. 12).
Israel means “He struggles with God.” What a name!
In response to this life-changing moment, Jacob called the place Peniel, “saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.'” (Gen. 32:30). Peniel means “face of God.” Wrestling with God has its rewards–we are never the same after.
Just ask Jacob! (Gen. 32:25).
Finally, Epaphras “wrestling in prayer” was on behalf of the believers at Colossae: that they “may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured” (Col. 4:12). It is noteworthy that Epaphras’s “wrestling in prayer” was not for himself but for others. This is pastoral care at its best.
This is an example for all of us to follow. Let’s wrestle in prayer for our people, beginning with our own families.