Book of Colossians Bible Studies
Col 4:2-6 Prayer and the Walkie-Talkie of sharing your faith
By I Gordon
Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. (Psalm 105:1-2)
We’ve been talking about practical Christianity and last time we noted some of the challenges we have in living for Christ in this age – not just in our personal life but also in our family and work life. This will be the last study from the book of Colossians and it is on the final aspect of practical Christianity - that is the praying, walking and talking of sharing your faith. It’s a prayie-walkie-talkie message if that means any sense what so ever! Let’s start with the passage itself so it’s not as clear as mud! It is all contained in five verses:
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
The passage falls into three parts, hence the praying – walking – talking division in the title. First of all it talks about the importance of prayer, firstly in general terms, and then in relation to the gospel going out. Secondly it talks about watching the way we walk and act around non believers. Finally it’s about talking - that we should know how to answer the questions of those that are not Christians, speaking with grace, yet seasoned with salt. So we will look at these three things in relation to sharing your faith – the praying, the walking and the talking.
A lifelong learning:
Even before we get into it, it is worth saying that when it comes to both prayer and sharing your faith, these are two essential elements of the faith but ones that we will always be learning. These are two areas that I am very much still learning in. I don’t write as an expert... just in case you strangely thought that could be the case! Many others have some real gifting’s from God in these areas – whether it is the gift of intercessory or prevailing prayer... or the ability to strike up conversations about the Lord and share the truth of Christ so easily. But wherever you are at, it’s good to read these important verses again because prayer and sharing Christ are at the heart of Christianity.
The three prayer essentials
Col 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving
I remember reading this verse a few years ago and it really spoke to me. It convicted me actually. I read the first part ‘devote yourself to prayer’ and thought, ‘yeah, that is something I need to do. I should be more devoted to prayer because it is really important.’ So I underlined that part of the passage. Then I read ‘keeping alert in it’ and thought ‘argh, goodness, how many times does my mind wander even in the midst of praying? In fact, there have been times when I’ve drifted off completely, woken up and suddenly thought that I don’t think I even finished my prayer. I might not have even finished the sentence!’ So that convicted me and I underlined that part of the verse. Then I read with an ‘attitude of thanksgiving’ and I started to think whether my prayer life was characterised by thanksgiving or by requests, or, heaven forbid, by ‘advice’ to God on what He should be doing. It’s like a quote I read recently that said ‘Most Christians want to serve God, but only in an advisory capacity’. So I underlined that bit as well. And then I wrote in the margin of my Bible ‘Remember! 1. Devote yourself to prayer! 2. Keep alert! 3. Have an attitude of thanksgiving!’ Prayer is hugely important. To emphasise this, please look at the following quotes in this footnote.
Of course we should never underestimate our own weakness here. In fact, if it is important you can expect it to be a battle. This command in Col 4:2 to pray and watch (NIV) should remind us of another time when these words were used. Did you remember? ‘Pray and watch... watch and pray!’ Ring any bells? Jesus seemed to be at his greatest need in the garden of Gethsemane where He said to Peter, James and John (the three closest disciples) "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me." (Matt 26:38). His soul was deeply grieved to the point of death. Does that sound like Jesus? He was completely panic-proof. He could cast out the demons, calm the seas, raise the dead… He always had things in hand and yet at this one point, in contemplating the cross and, for the first time taking on the sin of the world and experiencing the abandonment of God, it seemed like He wanted the support of His closest disciples. What happened? They fell asleep. What did Jesus say to them? ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ After saying this, Jesus went away a second and third time to pray in this hour of His greatest need and both times when he returned the disciples weren’t watching, they weren’t praying and they were sleeping! I think this story is in the Bible not just to expose the nature of Peter, James and John! The weakness of our flesh applies across the board. And if it is something important it will always come with a battle.
So there are three things here that Paul tells us in Colossians about prayer that we all need to remember:
The importance of prayer: The front line or the supply line?
Col 4:3-4 and pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.
The second aspect of praying in this passage concerns praying for those who are sharing Christ – that there would be an open door for the message. Did you know that in any battle there are two important lines? They are the front line and the supply line. The front line is in the thick of the action right at the face of the battle. But they too are reliant on the supply line which supports them. Cut off the supply line and the front line soon becomes ineffective. They need people supporting them. Whether it is battles in ancient Greece, the world wars of the 20th century or modern day conflict, it is still the same. Those in the front line are reliant on the meals, medicines, and munitions arriving through the supply lines, without which, they would soon be defeated.
Paul was very much a front-line type of person. In fact he wrote this letter, like many of his others, from prison because of his proclamation of the Gospel! And yet even Paul needed his supply line, his support line. They would support him through prayer which he strongly desired saying ‘pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message…’ Now, you may not be a front-line type of person. That may not be you’re gifting or calling. That’s ok. We can all pray. Listen to what Charles Spurgeon says:
“... [The] power of prayer can never be overrated. They who cannot serve God by preaching need not regret. If a man can but pray he can do anything. He who knows how to overcome with God in prayer has Heaven and earth at his disposal."
Why we pray: Only God is in the business of opening doors!
The third point about prayer from this passage concerns why we pray: Only God can open spiritual doors. But He does so as we pray. Pray for an open door for the word. Paul spoke about a door in a few places:
1Co 16:8-9 But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.
2Co 2:12 Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me…
Act 14:26-27 on arriving there (Antioch), they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.
You may have noted that in all of these passages, Paul wasn’t the one who opened the door. He knew and acknowledged that only God could open this door. So why do we pray? Because only God can open doors! Our prayers for an open door are two-fold for me.
To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. (Rev 3:7-8)
And don’t forget the Walkie…
Col 4:5 (NKJV) walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.
Col 4:5 (NIV) be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.
We’ve spoken about this a bit in previous messages so I won’t take as long on it. You may remember the quote I gave from D.L Moody that said out of 100 people, 1 will read the Bible and 99 will read the Christian. So how we walk, and act towards non-Christians is very important. They have seen too much hypocrisy in the church already. Martyn Lloyd Jones said "People seem to think that the masses are outside the Christian church because our evangelistic methods are not what they ought to be. That is not the answer. People are outside the church because looking at us they say, ""What is the point of being Christians? - look at them!"" They are judging Christ by you and me. And you cannot stop them and you cannot blame them." We also need to make the most of the opportunities we have. So remember that this passage is about the ‘prayie-walkie-talkie’. It starts with praying for people, praying for open doors and then gets onto the ‘walkie’ – making sure your conduct with non-Christians is attracting instead of repelling people! It’s also about using the time and opportunities you have wisely. Let’s talk about the talkie.
And now for the Talkie
Someone once said "Before you talk to men about God, talk to God about men." That’s what we’ve seen in this instruction from Paul. But we also need to talk to men about God as God lays it on our hearts. Let’s look at a couple of first principles:
Firstly: The desire to share your faith - An open prison door or an open gospel door?
Col 4:3-4 ...that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.
Look at the heart desire of the Apostle Paul – He is imprisoned and he is asking for prayer for an open door. That’s not unusual. Prison life isn’t easy... I’m told. It can be lonely, food isn’t flash, and the company’s not great… Paul needed prayer. If it were you or me we’d be asking for an open door alright… an open door on the prison cell and on the outside gate so we can sneak out and make a run for it! But that’s not the open door Paul is asking for or even after. He’s not asking for strength, deliverance, encouragement or freedom. Here is Paul’s prayer request from prison ‘that God will give me opportunities to speak about Christ and that I’ll make it clear for those that hear.’
What were the results of this? In his letter to the Philippians, another prison letter Paul writes:
Phil. 1:12-13 ‘now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.’
And at the end of His letter to the Philippians he says ‘the saints of Caesar’s household greet you’. By saying this he was referring to the guards whom he earlier said had all heard the Gospel and now some of them had believed and become Christians! So note the teamwork in this. The saints prayed for Paul. They prayed for an open door to preach. Paul, though chained, used the opportunities given to him and spoke. God opened the hearts of some of the listeners to believe and suddenly Caesar’s very household had Christians. Having received grace and forgiveness from God we should also want others to receive that too.
Second point: KISS – Keep it simple stupid!
Paul’s prayer request earlier in the passage was that he can make the Gospel clear for those that hear. He wants to take that which was a mystery, and probably remains a mystery for some, and make it CLEAR. That is the challenge we all have… though it should also be an encouragement for us. The Gospel isn’t meant to be complicated. You don’t need a doctorate or a degree to explain it. It is the simple good news that we are to proclaim. You don’t need to explain how predestination and free will fit together. You don’t need to expound on the prophetic significance of a seven headed beast coming out of the sea. We are called to preach what Jesus did to save us in dying for our sins.
The Talkie: Don’t forget the salt with your grace
Col 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, and seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
Our speech is that it should always be with GRACE. To me this means that it is wholesome, kind, gentle, truthful, loving. It’s realising we are all on the same level and but for the grace of God, there go I. We are, as one person put it, ‘one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.’ We aren’t trying to put someone down or win an argument. As soon as it becomes a personal argument, then you are already finished, for the person won’t listen. So our speech should be with grace.
But it should also be seasoned with salt. Here is the tricky, but essential part! Salt was important in the culture of that day as it was used as a preservative. They would wrap their meat in salt to stop it from going bad. Salt was well known from a religious point of view. All of the Old Testament sacrifices had salt added. When Elisha has to heal a town whose land and water was bad, he threw salt in it. In the New Testament, Jesus told His believers that they are the ‘salt of the earth’. So we are to help preserve that which is right and true in this world. So too our speech should be in grace, but seasoned in salt. In other words it should contain elements that help purify and preserve the souls of those that hear. An old preacher called Vance Havner said "We are the salt of the earth; mind you, not the sugar. Our ministry is to truly cleanse and not just to change the taste."
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Col 4:6)
Finally it says that we should be able to have an answer for everyone. We do have an answer for everyone. His name is Jesus. Sometimes we get nervous with a verse like this. You wonder if you have to have all the answers. What are they going to ask me? I don’t know very much... what will I say? None of us have all the answers to questions that may arise but we do know the one who is the answer. We do know the ultimate answer – Jesus Christ. So we should be able to explain why you became a Christian, your own testimony and why Jesus had to die on the cross. From there it is good to be aware of some of the common things people say out there and how to answer them:
As Peter says: “but in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.” Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…’ (1Pe 3:15)
As I studied this passage and read some of the quotes I was taken again by how important prayer is. Remember Spurgeon said he’s rather teach one person to pray than ten people to preach. Only God can open the doors of opportunity and even more importantly, the doors to the heart of a sinner. I know I’ve been convicted recently of how much I care for those I know that don’t know Christ. We should share. But even more importantly we should pray. "Before you talk to men about God, talk to God about men." We probably all know someone that needs salvation. Maybe we can commit them to God once again this morning. Remember: even George Muller, who was a praying machine, didn’t see one of those he was praying for come to the Lord even after decades of prayer. But the man did come to the Lord after Muller died. So we shouldn’t give up hope.
|Bible Studies in the Book of Colossians Series|
 Let me read a few
quotes concerning prayer from saints of God in days gone by.
1. “I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.” Charles Spurgeon
2. "God does nothing except in response to believing prayer." John Wesley
3. "The most important thing a born again Christian can do is to pray." Chuck Smith
4. "You can do more than pray after you have prayed; but you can never do more than pray until you have prayed." A.J. Gordon
5. “The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.” Samuel Chadwick
6. “The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history.” Andrew Murray
7. "Eighteen-year-old Hudson Taylor wandered into his father's library and read a gospel tract. He couldn't shake off its message. Finally, falling to his knees, he accepted Christ as his Saviour. Later, his mother, who had been away, returned home. When Hudson told her the good news, she said, "I already know. Ten days ago, the very date on which you tell me you read that tract; I spent the entire afternoon in prayer for you until the Lord assured me that my wayward son had been brought into the fold."
8. "Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do. Expect unexpected things 'above all that we ask or think.'" Andrew Murray
9. "Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer." John Bunyan
10. When asked how much time he spent in prayer, George Muller's reply was, "Hours every day. But I live in the spirit of prayer. I pray as I walk and when I lie down and when I arise. And the answers are always coming."
 I read the following illustration about persevering prayer: ‘I look at a stone cutter hammering away at a rock a hundred times without so much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the 101st blow it splits in two. I know it was not the one blow that did it, but all that had gone before.’ I like that. Do you have someone that you are consistently holding before God in prayer? Sometimes we pray for years without seeing a crack! Yet all of a sudden the stony heart splits in two! It seems like it is all of a sudden but in reality it is the 101st blow by prayer and it gives way! It did for me, my brother and my father who all became Christians in the same year while living in three different locations and not having anything to do with each other. Yet behind it there was my mother, sister and others who were praying! And thank goodness they were!
 Charles Spurgeon said "Heaven's gate is not to be stormed by one weapon but by many. Spare no arrows, Christian. Watch and see that none of the arms in thy armoury are rusty. Besiege the throne of God with a hundred hands, and look at the promise with a hundred eyes. You have a great work on hand for you have to move the arm that moves the world; watch, then, for every means of moving that arm. See to it that you ply every promise; that you use every argument; that you wrestle with all might."
 This principle of God opening the doors applies to all aspects of Christian service.
The Bible Believers commentary (Big Blue) says: The apostle wanted God to open doors for him. What an important lesson there is for us in this! It is all too possible for us to go around opening doors for ourselves in Christian service. But this is a peril to be avoided. If the Lord opens the doors for us, then we can confidently enter them, knowing that He is leading. On the other hand, if we open the doors for ourselves, then we cannot be sure that we are in the centre of the Lord's will, and we might soon be stooping to carnal means to carry on the so-called work of the Lord.
 You’ve probably all experienced trying to tell the Gospel to someone whose heart is closed to the good news. It is hard work. I spoke to a non-Christian friend recently at Easter and read from Isaiah 53. I tried to carefully explain this greatest prophecy, given hundreds of years in advance, of what Jesus would do on the cross. It is a fantastic passage and a fantastic proof that Jesus is the Messiah and died for our sins. So I did my best. How did it go? He replied very matter of fact, ‘It’s not something I’m interested in and or want to hear anything about.’ The moral of the story? Only God can open the door to a person’s heart! He asks us to share His truth and that is important but it won’t work without prayer asking God to work in the situation!
 I’ll give you an example from my own life recently that relates to this. Most of the people at my work aren’t Christians. There are only two of us that are. So I started thinking about the actual time that I have with the non-Christians and whether I’m making any use of that time. The first thing that I realised was that I spent next to no time with them. I sit in my little office doing my programming most of the day. People come in and ask questions and I’ll go out and help with problems but the majority of time is sitting in my office pressing buttons on a keyboard. Come lunch time, I like to get outside and see some sun and go for a run. So I realised I wasn’t spending anytime with the non-Christians really. I was praying about this, asking the Lord for opportunities and decided to make a small change. I thought that for lunch, if I wasn’t running, I’d sit in the lunch room and wait... Sure enough, someone came in and the first thing they asked was ‘Does your church do anything different over Easter?’ A good starting place to build on! So we had a good conversation and I now have a place to build on going forward with this co-worker. So sometimes we need to just commit these things back to God and make simple changes to be more available to people.
 There is to be something that cleanses, something that preserves, and something that pricks the conscience in our speech. That’s the salt. Jesus used both grace and salt. For example, when Jesus came before the women caught in adultery He said: “Neither do I condemn you.” That’s the grace.” Then He said “Go, and sin no more.” That’s the salt. With the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well He said: “Give Me a drink.” That’s the grace. ‘The normal prejudices of the day prohibited public conversation between men and women, between Jews and Samaritans, and especially between strangers.’ - Bible Knowledge Commentary. So Jesus broke all three rules to express grace and kindness to this woman. Then He said ‘Go, call your husband.’ That’s something of the salt. She had had 5 previous husbands and was now just living with a man who wasn’t her husband!
 I heard Ray Comfort interviewed recently on Jan Markel’s radio program and he gave an illustration I liked which relates to this. He spoke of a man standing near the open door of a plane 20,000 feet up without a parachute. So you tell the man to please put a parachute on but all he wants to do is argue about the age of the plane, whether it is young or old. He wants to argue about whether the plane has a maker or not. Ray said if that man won’t put a parachute on, the best thing you can could do for that man is hang him out the open door by his feet for 5 seconds and then bring him back on board. His natural instincts based on his predicament will then kick in and he’ll want a parachute quick smart! Ray said that is what he tries to do. He hangs people out over the edge of eternity for a few seconds using the law of God to shake people out of their apathy. That’s definitely the salt! And Ray Comfort does it incredibly well!
 I remember years ago
as we discussed this passage in home group, I asked, ‘how does salt lose its saltiness.’
One wise lady said ‘you water it down!’
So the truth shouldn’t be watered down unless we want the purifying and
preserving power to be diminished. Unfortunately a lot of ‘evangelism’ in the
last couple of decades has amounted to ‘God loves you and has a great plan for
your life’. That may be true but it’s just giving the grace before many even
see the need for it.
 Very briefly, some answers would be:
1. This is a common thought but even in a human court of law it would never work, let alone before the totally holy righteous Almighty God! If you said to a human judge in court that ‘yeah, I committed this crime but there have been lots of other times when I’ve obeyed the law whole-heartedly and been good to people’ he would say ‘you have broken the law so I sentence you to…’
2. There are thousands of things we never see but still know to be true. A common one is the wind. Have you seen the wind? All we see are the effects of the wind. In like manner we may not have seen God visibly but His invisible qualities are clearly seen throughout creation and in the effect that He has on the lives of those He touches.
3. They are blaming the wrong god! Satan is the god of this world scripture tells us. We also shouldn’t blame God for what fallen mankind does to each other. God didn’t make this planet in its fallen state and His plan will see all things put back as they should be!
4. This is a more common complaint of late but it isn’t actually true. Certainly people have and do fight over religion but it is wrong to say it causes all the wars. To quote from the Gotquestions website: ‘By all accounts, the 20th century was one of the bloodiest centuries in human history. Two major world wars, which had nothing at all to do with religion, the Jewish Holocaust, and the Communist Revolutions in Russia, China, Southeast Asia and Cuba, have accounted for anywhere between 50-70 million deaths (some estimate upwards to 100 million). The one thing these conflicts and genocides have in common is that fact that they were ideological, not religious, in nature. We could easily make the case that more people have died throughout human history due to ideology than to religion. Communist ideology necessitates ruling over others. Nazi ideology necessitates elimination of “inferior” races. These two ideologies alone account for the death of millions, and religion had nothing to do with it. In fact, communism is by definition an atheistic ideology. Religion and ideology are both secondary causes for war. However, the primary cause for all war is sin.’ Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/religion-war.html
5. Jesus was the one who said that He is the only way and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. This is a narrow statement but whether it is narrow or broad makes no difference. All that matters is, is it true? Jesus proved that He was the promised Messiah, the Son of God, the only way of salvation, but fulfilling the hundreds of prophecies given hundreds of years before, by dying on the cross for our sins and most importantly by rising from the dead!