Epaphras was from Colosse and he had been the person who had taken the gospel there (Col. 1:7). At the time of writing this letter, Epaphras was a prisoner alongside Paul in Rome. It is clear from 4:12-13 that the Spirit wanted the Colossians and us to note what Epaphras was doing during his imprisonment – he was praying (Col. 4:12-13). How did he become such a person?
The basic requirement in becoming a man of prayer is to first become a Christian, to become a man of faith. Having done so, Epaphrus soon became a man on fire for the gospel. So he spread the gospel round his hometown and soon a small congregation began through his prayers.
One reason why he prayed so passionately was that he grasped he was a servant of Christ. Like everyone else, Epaphras had a brain, limbs, eyes and affections. The question is, what would he do with them? He knew the answer – he devoted them all to Jesus Christ and became his wholehearted servant. Epaphras recognised that he was owned by Jesus Christ.
This did not stop him having concerns, but he knew what to do with them. He prayed. False teaching about Jesus was affecting the little church in Colosse – the erroneous views may have come from mixing Christianity with ideas from local religions. Whatever the source, their presence in the church made Epaphras afraid that the church would go wrong, and therefore he prayed.
Moreover Epaphras developed a meaningful prayer life because he knew what spiritual loyalty required. He was loyal to Christ, he was loyal to Paul, and he was loyal to the Colossians. Paul had entrusted Epaphras with taking the gospel to Colosse, and he had not betrayed that confidence. Furthermore he was steadfast concerning the good things that were going on in the Colossian congregation – he told Paul about ‘their love in the Spirit’. What a beautiful description of a church! Right motives, right behaviour, right words towards one another. Epaphras delighted to tell others about their growth in grace, growth in answer to his prayers.
We should note what Epaphras was now praying for although he was in prison with Paul. He wanted the Colossians to ‘stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God’. The imagery of a person standing is a good one because it points to stability. Epaphras knew the secret of stability and assurance – it was connected to all the will of God. Therefore he prayed that the Colossians would experience it.
Paul says in Colossians 1:7 that the Christians in Colosse had learned a lot from Epaphras. We too can learn a lot from him in the matter of prayer.