A sermon on Colossians 4:2-6 delivered at the Mid-Point Rally for 40 Days for Life, Hagerstown, MD. Given by the Rev. Justin Clemente, Parish Priest for New Creation Church (Anglican), Hagerstown, MD.
I. Giving God the Glory
I’ve been asked to speak on the power of prayer. And to do that, we’re going to turn to Colossians 4:2-6. In a moment, I’m going to tell you that one of the things we must be willing to do in prayer is to give God the glory. So let me begin with a story that does just that.
My church is, of course, participating in the 40 Days For Life, praying corporately and individually, and two Sundays ago, I saw God honor those prayers in an awesome way.
By the end of our Morning Prayer service, we had not one but two nine-month pregnant women with us, both seeking God’s blessing upon their life and life of their three in utero children (yes, one of them was carrying twins). One of them came with her husband and her older child. My wife was able to pray with her, and I was able to pray for the father and mother, that they would strengthened for the days ahead and that their baby would be safely delivered. I and our Junior Warden were able to counsel the other woman at length, providing support for her in numerous ways.
Friends, that has never, ever happened on a Sunday morning. And so, I give our Father, who loves life more than any of us, the glory for what he entrusted us with that past Sunday morning!
Let’s move now to our passage.
2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
O Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be pleasing to you, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
III. A Recipe for a Steadfast Prayer Life (v. 2)
2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
At the end of the epistle to the Colossians, the Holy Spirit gives us a recipe for a lasting and vibrant life of prayer. There are three elements to it: 1) Continue steadfastly, 2) be watchful in it, 3) with thanksgiving.
First, continue steadfastly:
In our prayer lives, we will never see growth or significant answered prayer apart from steadfast and regular times of prayer.
In fact, Jesus told us in Luke 18, The Parable of the Persistent Widow, that we would have to persevere in prayer and that we would tempted give up. And so Luke 18:1 says, “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and to not lose heart.”
Prayer is not always easy, prayer does not always come naturally to us (for we are saints and sinners), and for that reason we need it all the more. Prayer is the persistent pebble we must consistently drop into the shoe of our self-reliance.
And it’s no different in the aims of the 40 Days For Life and the pro-life movement.
You may know the story of abolitionist William Wilberforce, who fought tirelessly to end the slave trade in Britain. He and his comrades gathered personal testimony from everyone they could on horrors of slavery. They believed, initially, that Britain would very quickly see the evil for what it was and stop the practice, but they did not. The fight lasted decades, and Wilberforce died just three days after the Emancipation Bill was passed for slaves in the British Empire.
The similarities between the slave trade then and abortion industry today are easy to see. Hannah More, who worked closely with Wilberforce, was fond of calling slave traders “human flesh merchants.” This is a place where human beings, both mothers and babies, are turned into dollar bills. Today abortion is the leading cause of death in the world, claiming about 40 million lives every year. What compelled the abolitionists is the same foundational Christian belief that moves the hearts of those in the pro-life movement: all lives matter. That all are made in the image of God and therefore full of worth and value. Furthermore, the incarnation of Jesus Christ showed them, and us, the redemptive purpose of God in his death and resurrection.
Wilberforce and his compatriots teach us that our public witness matters and can make a massive difference, but we must also be willing to count the cost. But it all begins with and returns to life and work that is buoyed up and strengthened by regular and extended communion with the living God in prayer.
Second, be watchful in it.
It’s very hard to keep watch in prayer if your prayers aren’t particularly deep and aren’t particularly specific. Are you praying strategically for this place to actually close? Are you praying for the women who will come here to be directed to specific people and ministries? Are you keeping track of the declining abortions?
It’s also hard to be watchful over something you’re not involved in. Are you praying for God to use you in the cause of life? Are you asking him to help you speak the truth when an opportunity arises to share the Christian perspective?
Third, prayer with thanksgiving.
I remember when we first started New Creation. We were cleaning the streets of our former neighborhood over on North Mulberry. I told our bishop what were doing, and I’ll never forget his response. He said, “make sure that God gets the glory!”
Are you quick to give God the glory when you ask, and he provides? A heart full of thanksgiving to God is the result of abiding and asking in Christ Jesus in the way he has taught us to.
That’s the vertical aspect of a praying life. There’s more, but I want take a brief detour into verses 3-4.
IV. Praying for Shepherds (vs. 3-4)
At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
Paul asks for the prayers of the church for his apostolic mission – that he might speak clearly of the gospel, as he ought to. Meaning, as he’s required to.
Now, I am not an apostle, but am a presbyter and a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I do not want to come to the end of my ministry having been silent on this issue. This issue, which my Archbishop, Foley Beach, called the “greatest moral evil of our time.”
So pray for your pastor. Pray that your pastor would know exactly how God wants them to speak into abortion as an aspect of making the mystery of Christ known.
V. Steadfast Prayer Results in Gracious, Truth-filled Speech (vs. 5-6)
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
So we spoke of the vertical dimensions of a praying life, and now we look at the horizontal result of a praying life.
It results in gracious speech. Grace-filled speech. In Greek it literally reads, let your speech always be “in grace.”
Only a person who lives in renewed communion with the living God, having his sins forgiven, having been made a son of living God, can then turn to his fellow man and speak in grace-filled tones.
In fact, speech-in-grace is how we should describe the pro-life mission. Remember friends, as the church, we only have one mission from our Lord – the Great Commission. We have one message, one Gospel, one good news. It is under the auspices of that Good News that the Christian involvement in the pro-life movement must take place.
Let me give you some examples. Speech-in-grace stands next to sinners, not over them. Speech-in-grace does not end with condemnation and is not here simply to pronounce final judgement over people. Grace-filled speech knows that God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Next, a praying life results in speech that is seasoned with salt. A gospel-centered, Christ-exalting witness, in this context, is simply unlike anything else in the world. It is a powerful yet humble, barrier-breaking force.
Sometimes having our speech seasoned with salt, in this context, simply means not having to have the last word. Or not having to turn the volume up and yell louder! Sometimes it will mean being silent, and allowing the Holy Spirit to speak for us and be salty for us.
Lastly, a life of prayer results in knowing how to answer each person. Our message here this evening is that each person matters to God. Each child. Each mother. Each father. Compassion and a wise, loving answer begins with knowing the loving God that made each one. If you want to know how speak to people, speak to God first, and the answer will be clear. Amen.