Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian in history with twenty-eight medals, twenty-three of them gold. This success did not happen by accident. At the peak of his training regimen, he spent in the pool five to six hours a day, six days a week. In addition, he lifted weights three days a week. Such dedication to one’s training is the hallmark of great Olympians.
The apostle Paul knew that success in the Christian life required dedication. In particular, Paul calls the church to “devote yourselves to prayer” (v. 2). Perseverance in prayer was essential for the church to succeed in living the transformed life that Paul described in his letter. Paul further elaborated on this theme by specifying how to pray: “being watchful and thankful” (v. 2).
The word watchful is often used in the New Testament to refer to the imminent return of Christ (Mt. 24:42; Mk. 13:37; 1 Thess. 5:6). The hope of Christ’s return motivates us to pray and gives our prayer a focus. Our prayer should flow from a sense of gratitude for all Christ has done for us.
In verses 3–4, Paul switched focus to ask the church to intercede for him. While “in chains” for the sake of the gospel, he asked for prayer that “God may open a door for our message” (v. 3). In whatever situation he found himself in, Paul prayed and looked for opportunities to share the gospel. The wording here is interesting, Paul prayed not for an open door for himself, but “for our message” (v. 3). He knew it was the message of the gospel that was most important, not the messenger. In fact, he asked for prayer to “proclaim it clearly, as I should” (v. 4). His desire was to proclaim the gospel clearly and accurately, not to share his own message.
Pray for God to open a door for you to share the gospel with your neighbor, coworker, or a relative. Ask for His help to clearly articulate the hope you have in Christ. For more information, see A Field Guide for Everyday Mission: 30 Days and 101 Ways to Demonstrate the Gospel (Moody Publishers), online or at a Christian bookstore.