Summary: The stakes have never been higher!
Prayer is a wrestling match!
12 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.
13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.
Wrestle in prayer? How does one wrestle in prayer? It is common belief that prayer is simply something sweet, like “Now I lay me down to sleep…”
But the kind of praying Epaphras was doing was far different than a bedtime prayer for rest or even protection. He was praying at a prize fight! Epaphras was “wrestling” in prayer. What does this word wrestle mean?
Paul uses it earlier in this letter, chapter 1, verse 29, and the New International Version translates it “struggling”:
29 To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy,
which so powerfully works in me.
Paul continues the idea in chapter 2, verse 1:
1 I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.
The word for struggling or wrestling is a colorful word. It is where we get our word, “agony”. According to the dictionary, to agonize means to be in extreme pain, anguish, or torture. Paul says about Epaphras that he was always praying for the Colossians with such intensity that it was tortuous.
Epaphras prayed until it hurt!
When you pray at a prize fight, it will take everything you have to offer. Sometimes in horse races, it is said that the horse is running on heart. That’s all the animal has left. The heart of a thoroughbred is strong enough to keep the horse running when the pain is excruciating. Olympic runners often run on heart because that’s all that’s left. Have you ever prayed with all your heart?
The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
The word “fervent” is like the word for wrestle. It means to be stretched out, to boil to give it all you’ve got! When the deadline’s tomorrow, prayers get fervent! I love how Eugene Petersen translates this verse in the Message:
The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.
Let’s look at another place where this idea of wrestling was used. Ephesians 6:12:
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood,
but against principalities,
against the rulers of the darkness of this age,
against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Praying at a prize fight means that we are praying for victory against the enemy of the souls of men. Prayer can do what no human can do! The Christian’s personal enemy possesses neither omnipotence (he is not all powerful), omniscience (he does not know it all), nor omnipresence (he is not always present), but he is organized throughout the world for the purpose of defeating the people of God. J.B. Phillips paraphrases verse 12: “For our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil.” You cannot fight this kind of fight in your own strength. To do so is to simply dance around the ring, hoping you won’t get hit. I can promise you the enemy of your soul is not shadow boxing. He knows where you live, who your children and grandchildren are, and he is fighting to win. We must have God’s power!
We are wrestling in prayer against principalities = spiritual influences which would lead our children away from God.
We are wrestling in prayer against powers = those in authority who lord it over our children even in subtle ways, like teachers who exploit our kids.
We are wrestling in prayer against rulers of darkness in this present age = Satan himself who has a plan for our children’s lives, and
We are wrestling in prayer against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly realms = demonic forces who want nothing less than making our children have the same fate they do!
We must pray with fervency, claiming our loved ones for Christ!
Have you ever prayed that way? Have you ever struggled in prayer as if your life or perhaps the lives of others depended on it?
Epaphras wrestled in prayer because
the prize was worth it!
In the Grecian wrestling matches, pictured here in Paul’s mind, the wrestling match was between two opponents in which each endeavors to throw the other. Like our wrestling matches, the victor is the one who pins his opponent to the ground, with his arm across his neck. Unlike our wrestling matches, while the victor held his victim to the ground, the victim’s eyes were gouged out, leaving him blinded for life.