Text Without Ceasing


The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossian churches begins and ends with references to Epaphras and to prayer.

In the opening of his letter Paul gives thanks in prayer to God for “the word of truth” which is “producing fruit and growing” in the world and is now doing so among the Christians in Colossae.  Paul reminds them that the gospel had been brought to their “doorstep” (1: 6) by Epaphras. And, that their enabling to flourish was produced in them by constant prayer:

“That’s how you learned [the gospel] from Epaphras our beloved fellow slave. He’s a loyal and faithful servant of the king on your behalf. He it was who gave us the news about your love in the spirit.

“For this reason, from the day we heard [of your faith], we haven’t stopped praying for you. We’re asking God to fill you with the knowledge of what he wants in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. Colossians 1: 7-9


What struck me even more about Paul’s opening words is the faithful witness of Epaphras and the “we haven’t stopped praying for you” mature Christian’s devotion to prayer. Both commitments, it seems to me, are required of us: planting the Kingdom of God mustard seed and nurturing that seedling to full maturity (Matt. 13:31).


The Apostle Paul ends his circular letter to the house churches in and around Colossae with greetings from those supporting him and the work of the Gospel. Among those is “fellow slave” Epaphras. And though Paul sends on Epaphras’ warm regards, the message is no greeting card sentiment.  Paul was no sentimentalist. Paul was in prison because he spoke “the word of truth”. Paul prayed that the Colossian Christians would mature and also speak “the word of truth”. Paul was aware that, like himself, the Colossian Christians also may end up in jail for doing so. But, he pressed them to remain faithful to that “word”.

In the closing Paul relates how Epaphras is asking God that the Colossians remain resolute and unyielding in their commitment to the “word of truth” they had received:


“Epaphras, one of your own folk and also one of King Jesus’s slaves, sends you his greetings. He’s always struggling in prayer on your behalf, praying that you will stand firm and mature, and have your minds fully settled on everything that God wants you to do.”  Colossians 4:12


The tongue-in-cheek title of this post is meant to be a prod for Christians to mature and to pray without ceasing. The Apostle Paul, the former Saul, who met Jesus on the Damascus road thought that prayer maintained that revelation:


“Never stop praying”

1 Thessalonians 5:17


“Devote yourselves to prayer; keep alert in it, with thanksgiving.”

Colossians 4:2


Don’t worry about anything. Rather, in every area of life let God know what you want, as you pray and make requests, and give thanks as well.

Philippians 4:6


Pray on every occasion in the spirit, with every type of prayer and intercession.

Ephesians 6:18


To be sure, prayer is a mystery. We understand asking and confessing in prayer. Those are direct interactions. But interceding in prayer? It sounds right, but how does that work, especially when the objects of our prayers have a free will? Paul’s prayer for “God to fill you with the knowledge of what he wants in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,” would seem to imply that change in another’s life comes about through the effects of prayer.

Also, to be sure, those who call Jesus “Lord’ are invited into the mysteries of the Godhead. The Godhood’s desired relationship with you includes the mystery of prayer. (I don’t know about you, but I like mysteries. If I knew everything, life would be boring and romance less.)


From one Member of the Godhead we learn that prayer is required for life. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray he said we should ask the Father for our daily bread.

Also, from Jesus we learn that prayer is required for peace. Jesus told us to pray for our enemies and for those who persecute us.

From Paul we learn that we are helpless in prayer but not left to our own devices. We are told in Scripture that when we pray the spirit intercedes for us when we do not know how to pray.

See prayer as essential to all of life. Then, pray for your spouse and for those in your church to become mature in Christ and to gain spiritual wisdom and understanding. I look around and I do not see mature Christians. I see hobbling Hobbits.


Pray and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8 (adapted)



Garden Praying:


There are times when the press of life so weighs on me that I find it difficult to pray. It is then that I go to my secret garden of prayer… 


In my mind’s eye I see myself standing and looking out the kitchen window. Behind me are the world of concerns which reside in my life. Out the window I see a lush garden bathed in sunlight. I feel a pull to go outside. I step out the back door and down the stairs. I walk the stone path to an arbor with two benches. The arch is covered in vines. There is a scent of Hyacinths in the breeze.

Jesus is sitting on the bench. He’s been waiting for me. I sit across from him. I want to look into his eyes. We sit in the silence of nature. Then He speaks.

“I have greatly desired this time with you.”

I begin to worship him. I confess my sins. I ask for his forgiveness. I tell him my concerns. I release control of my life. I release my control of other’s lives. I return to silence. I look into the Lord of Creation’s eyes. I see mercy and goodness and help and strength. Those eyes, those times, beckon my trust.


Pray the Jesus Prayer:

Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner.

Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner.

Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner.


‘If there’s trouble, you should pray’


Hannah’s story of coming to faith and surviving a labour camp in North Korea

She prayed every day, often in the living room, quite openly. My father and I had to watch out for our neighbors. If anyone came close, we’d cough and she’d stop praying. Even on her deathbed—in the mid-nineties—she told us to always be thankful and to always pray. “Life is trouble,” she told us. “If there’s trouble, you should pray.” But she didn’t do one thing: she never explained to us how to pray.

All we could make out was, “Hanonim! Hanonim! Lord! Lord! Help.” And then we couldn’t understand the phrases that followed because she spoke so fast. Sometimes my father was annoyed with her and didn’t want her praying in the living room. So she went outside, even when it snowed. One time—when I was older—I sent my 9-year-old daughter after her to cover her up with a blanket.

Praying was so important for my mother that she even washed her hair and put on her nicest clothes. “We approach God with the deepest reverence,” she said. We had no idea who this ‘Hanonim’ was. My daughter even asked her one day why she wouldn’t simply visit this guy if he was that important to her. My mother replied, “One day I will.”

Because of my mother’s prayers, I was never as indoctrinated by the Juche ideology as other North Korean people. Especially after she confessed to me how I was born. My father and mother were married during the Japanese occupation. My father had been married before, but he was unable to have any children with his first wife. And my mother was also unable to conceive. But someone told her that if she prayed to Jesus she would have a baby. So she prayed. For almost eight years she prayed. And then, not long after the Second World War, I was born.

As I said, my mother never explained the full gospel to me, but when I got married in my early twenties, she shared this story with me. And I knew I was a gift of faith.

Pray it Forward


“I, Paul, am in prison because I am a missionary for Jesus Christ to you who are not Jews.” Ephesian 3:1 



1st Century AD. You are in a prison in Ephesus. You long to know how your young children are doing, your young children in the faith. You have been called to preach the Good News and announce the Kingdom of God to the Gentiles. Seeds have been planted but they must be watered and fed and cared for in order for there to be fruit. But, here you are locked up. So, you write letters and pray and pray and pray.


“For this reason, from the day we heard it, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking God to fill you with the knowledge of what he wants in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. This means that you’ll be able to conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Lord, and so give him real delight, as you bear fruit in every good word and grow in the knowledge of God. I pray that you’ll be given all possible strength, according to the power of his glory, so that you’ll have complete patience and become truly steadfast and joyful.

And I pray that you will learn to give thanks to the father, who has made you fit to share the inheritance of God’s holy ones in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness, and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved son. He is the one in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 9-14


As I read these verses I envisioned Paul sitting in a dimly lit and damp prison cell. He is agitated and fretting. He is deeply concerned for those outside the cell, those surrounded by the power of darkness. Paul is not whining. He is not demanding. He is not writing his bio.

Paul is praying and hasn’t stopped praying for those beyond his cell. Paul is praying that they may be filled with knowledge and that they may be given all strength to use that knowledge to bear fruit. He prays that they will learn to give thanks for the One who transferred them into his Kingdom out of the darkness. The irony that Paul has been transferred to a dank dark prison cell because of the Kingdom does not affect his vision of the Kingdom or his prayer life.

This is Kingdom prayer. The prayer is for others. The prayer lifts others up and reinforces others. The prayer points away from self and toward the One who is able to do more than we ask or think on behalf of others. This is dark night of the cell prayer, where one is alone with God and unable to move but a few feet. Paul’s actions are distilled down to praying verbs: “fill”, “bear”, “grow”, “learn”.



There are many who are unable to move but a few feet. The elderly, who have been active most of their lives, now sit. Some may even think of their bodies as a prison cell. But, in that “cell” the “wisdom and spiritual understanding” that was prayer directed at them some two millennia before can be applied to their Kingdom prayer now. They can pray for their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren just a Paul prayed for his children in the faith. The fact that they, two millennia later, have faith means that Paul’s prayer was effective. Some were “filled” with knowledge. Some were “filled” with knowledge and “bore” fruit. Some were “filled” with knowledge and “bore” fruit and “gained” strength. Some were “filled” with knowledge and “bore” fruit and “gained” strength and “learned” to give thanks.

There will always be situations beyond our control. I was reminded this past two weeks of how uncontrollable are the forces that surround me. The weather in the Chicago area has been frigid. I do not remember such cold temps and I have lived in the area for over 65 years.

At 65 years you begin to think about mobility later in life. You wonder, at least I do, about how long your legs will cooperate. So, I see it is time for me to exercise Kingdom prayer with action verbs. It is long past time for me to pray it forward.


More Kingdom prayer from prison:

“For this reason, I bow my knees and pray to the Father. It is from Him that every family in heaven and on earth has its name. I pray that because of the riches of His shining-greatness, He will make you strong with power in your hearts through the Holy Spirit. I pray that Christ may live in your hearts by faith. I pray that you will be filled with love. I pray that you will be able to understand how wide and how long and how high and how deep His love is. I pray that you will know the love of Christ. His love goes beyond anything we can understand. I pray that you will be filled with God Himself.

God is able to do much more than we ask or think through His power working in us. May we see His shining-greatness in the church. May all people in all time honor Christ Jesus. Let it be so.”  Ephesians 3: 14-21

Getting Back to Outside-of-Spacetime Normal


“Elsewhere on the Las Vegas Strip, things appeared to go back to normal quite quickly.”  -Quote from a Oct. 4th, 2017 Daily Mail post


“I am please asking your prayers for the late 13 year old J— T—— and for his family and friends. J—, a neighbor of ours passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday, Oct. 3rd. J— was a smart, kind young man. He went through a lot of pain in his short life. May J— be surrounded with God’s unconditional love and may God lift J—’s family and friends up at this time. Give them peace, comfort, and spiritual healing over the loss of their family member and friend.”

-a recent prayer request from a church’s prayer email list


Whether be it hurricanes, floods, tornados, mass killings, local armed robberies (my town) and the loss of a child, there are life-events that seem to come out of nowhere. And, they are beyond our control. There are also cause-and-effect circumstances that follow from our own actions. These consequences often situate us in a place beyond our control. After any such occurrences, whether thrust upon us or resultant, it becomes clear to us that there is no going back to before. One passes through an event horizon* after which things will never be the same.

Those in the world who experience any of the above will likely face the situation initially with shock, hurt and outrage and then, as some time passes, turn to a “let’s return to normal” Epicurean palliative mind set -“the show must go on”. Later, they may turn off their feelings altogether within a Stoic apathy, especially if life-events ‘pile’ up. The cycle of indifference then ‘piles’ up until “action must be taken”.

After a horrific event most will seek a motive when great harm is done to others. They will ask “Why?” because they want to discover the means to stop all pain in this life, pain which so often comes home with them. A Christian will view the events from a Kingdom of God perspective, one which is Outside of Spacetime Normal.

“I am persuaded, you see, that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor the present, nor the future, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in King Jesus our Lord.” -Paul’s letter to the Roman church, 8: 38-39

Those of us who call Jesus “Lord” are being conformed to the image of the Alpha and Omega, the One who is outside of spacetime ‘normal’. As such, we are a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) and are summoned to do the work of a priest – stand between heaven and earth and intercede for the world. We are to take the hurt, the pain, the sufferings and the groanings of the world and bring it to the Father and to do so without ceasing.

Maybe you have witnessed the following in your spirit. I have come to understand, after 55 years of a relationship with the Lord, that the Holy Spirit is constantly in conversation with the Father and the Son through me. The Spirit is constantly interceding. I am made continually aware of those around me. I lift them to the Lord. In my spirit I hear the cries of thousands who are hurting. When I see news reports of disasters – natural and manmade – I pray in the Spirit. Most times I do not have words. The Spirit, helping me in my weakness, prays through my very limited understanding.

“…the spirt comes alongside and helps us in our weakness. We don’t know what to pray for as we ought to; but the same spirit pleads on our behalf, with groanings too deep for words. And, the Searcher of Hearts knows what the spirit is thinking, because the spirit pleads for God’s people according to God’s will.”  -Paul’s letter to the Roman church, 8: 26-27

For some, prayers begin with a “Why?” and end up with “How could you let this happen?”

For followers of Jesus our often-wordless intercessions begin with, “How long, Sovereign Lord Jesus?” and end with “Come Lord Jesus. Maranatha.”



*event horizon is a boundary in spacetime, the shell of “points of no return”. Nothing inside the event horizon can ever cross the boundary and escape beyond it, including light. Nothing that enters a black hole can get out or can be observed from outside the event horizon.