Prayer, Earnest and Awake

Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. (Colossians 4:2-4)

We know that the Apostle Paul prayed for the Colossian Christians. An example of his prayer for them is found in Colossians 1:3-8. Paul prayed for them, now toward the end of his letter, he told them to keep on praying themselves.

Specifically, Paul told them (and all Christians) to continue earnestly in prayer. This sort of earnest prayer is important, but does not come easy. Earnestly in prayer speaks of great effort that is steadily applied. Much of our prayer is powerless because it lacks earnestness. Too often we pray almost with the attitude of wanting God to care about things we really don’t care too much about.

Earnest prayer has power not because it in itself persuades a reluctant God. Instead, it demonstrates that our heart cares passionately about the same things God cares about. This fulfills what Jesus promised in John 15:7: If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you.

Our prayers are not only to be earnest, but also vigilant. According to William Barclay, the idea behind the word translated vigilant is awake. In a sense, Paul told us to not fall asleep in prayer. Sometimes, because of the tiredness of our body or mind, we struggle against sleep when we pray. Other times we pray as if we were asleep, and our prayers simply sound and feel tired, sleepy.

Our earnestness and vigilance should also have thanksgiving. God gives us so much and blesses us with so much, that we should always thank Him as we ask Him.

Paul went on to give them something specific to pray for –himself! He wrote, “meanwhile praying also for us.” Paul seemed to say, “As long as we are on the subject of prayer, please pray for us!” But Paul didn’t ask for prayer for his personal needs (which were many), but that God would open to us a door for the word. Paul knew that when God’s word was active and free to work, great things happened for God.

Finally, notice that Paul asked the Colossians to pray for his preaching, so that he could speak the mystery of Christ, and do it as he ought to speak. When Paul wrote this, he was in chains for proclaiming the word of God. He wanted Christians to pray that he would keep doing proclaiming God’s word, and do it better all the time.

Pray earnestly, pray vigilantly – and if you can, pray for me. If Paul needed that prayer, I need it much more. Pray that the Lord continues to give David Guzik open doors to spread God’s word, and that I may proclaim His word as I ought to speak. Thank you!


2 replies
  1. Angellena Hodges
    Angellena Hodges says:

    I have enjoyed using David Guzik’s commentary through Blue Letter Bible to study God’s word. I also shared this enduring word message on prayer with a prayer group. However, I do not know if Mr. Guzik really knows the fundamental beliefs of William Barclay. After reading more about William Barclay, I would not feel that quoting any of his statements in my own writings or studies of the Bible. William Barclay did not even believe in the virgin birth. None of us are close to the righteousness of Jesus
    Christ, but William Barclay’s study commentaries, no matter how enlightening, are not appealing to me as a believer of the infallible Word of God, which must be taken literally throughout. If we start eliminating bits and pieces of the complete truth of the Holy Scriptures, like Mr. Barclay is so famous for, then we risk blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

    • David Guzik
      David Guzik says:

      Angellena, thanks for your comment.

      Regarding William Barclay, I am aware of many or most of his doctrinal errors. If you were to look at the books I use for my personal study and preparation of the commentary ( has most of them), you will find many authors and I suppose that almost all of them hold to some doctrines or matters of Bible interpretation that I would disagree with. For example, John Stott – an esteemed scholar and Bible commentator in the mind of many – was an annihilationist, believing that there is no real hell as most understand it.

      In the case of William Barclay, one of his greatest errors was he was essentially a theological liberal, believing that most of the supernatural claims of the Bible were not truly supernatural. He often tried to “explain away” miracles, showing that nothing indeed supernatural happened. For example (to my memory), he thought the feeding of the 5,000 was a miracle – but a miracle of sharing. It wasn’t that Jesus, by the power of God, actually multiplied the bread and fish; instead, when the multitude saw the generosity of a little boy who wanted to share his lunch, they were willing to share their hidden supplies of food. This is obviously wrong and not what the Bible says.

      At the same time, William Barclay does supply some wonderful, legitimate insights from both the original Greek text and also from history. It is for those insights that read and quote William Barclay, not because I agree with or believe in everything he believed or wrote. I vividly remember Pastor Chuck Smith, a great pastor and Bible teacher, sharing at a pastor conference about different Bible commentators he read and found useful. When he mentioned William Barclay, he said that he appreciated Barclay’s historical and Greek expertise, but then he would read something else that would want to make him throw the book across the room! I have a similar opinion of William Barclay, but like Pastor Chuck Smith, I find him sometimes helpful in those particular area.

      I think there is a Biblical precedent for saying that we do have permission to quote from others without having to agree with all their theology or practice. In the sermon recorded in Acts 17:22-31, Paul quoted two pagan philosophers in Acts 17:28:

      • Paul quoted Epimenides the Cretan [600 b.c.]: For in Him we live and move and have our being.
      • Paul quoted Aratus [310 b.c.]: For we are also His offspring.
      • Paul later quoted Epimenides again in Titus 1:12: Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.

      Obviously, there was much that those two Greek philosophers taught and believed that the Apostle Paul would renounce as false. His quoting of them in his preaching should not be taken as an implication that he believed everything they taught.

      There is another example in the New Testament. Jude quoted the Book of Enoch (Jude 1:14-15). It doesn’t mean that the Book of Enoch belongs in our Bible; not everything in there is inspired Scripture. But it does mean that Jude, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit found that particular line helpful and he used it.

      The principle I draw from this is simple: the Christian pastor and preacher has the liberty to use a source that he doesn’t completely agree with. If I quote C.S. Lewis, it doesn’t mean that I agree with all his theology (which I don’t). If I quote Charles Spurgeon (which I do a lot) it doesn’t mean that I agree with all of his theology.

      As for the idea that my quoting of Barclay might lead someone astray or imply that I agree with and believe in everything he believed and wrote – I simply reject that. It is an intolerable burden for any researcher or Bible student to work under the requirement that they can only refer to or quote from those with whom they are in complete agreement. I reject the idea that a quotation or reference is an endorsement of everything the one quoted has believed or written. If those are the requirements, it is just another way of saying, “You can’t quote anyone” which is just another way of saying, “You can’t learn from anyone.”

      However, if there is a specific quote from William Barclay – or anyone else, for that matter – that you or someone else regards as deceptive or dangerous, I don’t mind at all someone calling this to my attention. I would happily hear and carefully review any such quote or reference.


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