In the details of Paul’s request here for prayer, we have a clear summary of a gospel minister at prayer. First, he is dependent on God to open the door for service, which is a reminder that all doors are shut unless God opens them. In a literal sense, Paul was probably in a room in which the door was closed, but he did not regard that as a reason for a spiritual door not being opened.
Second, a gospel minister works with others – we should note Paul’s use of the pronoun ‘us’. The ‘us’ are probably Paul and Timothy because they are the names at the opening of the letter. We are aware of some reasons why the church should have prayed for Timothy – he was physically weak and a bit timid, and he needed strength and courage from God.
Third, a gospel minister wants to declare the mystery of Christ. This does not mean that he is to speak in a mysterious way. Instead the term ‘mystery’ in the New Testament refers to something that has been revealed. Paul wanted to preach about Christ, his person and his work. Of course, such a subject is vast and contains more than sufficient material for a preacher. Paul wanted to declare it and he found his enforced silence very hard to bear.
Fourth, a gospel minister may have to pay a price for preaching. Paul had been arrested, which I assume happened because he had continued to preach after he arrived in Rome. As the closing verses of the Book of Acts indicate, Paul initially had freedom to preach in Rome. But later on, he was denied that liberty. Yet although the cost was heavy, he was willing to pay it. Of course, such a situation was not a new one for Paul. Still his experience is a reminder that sometimes a gospel minister faces official opposition from the authorities.
Fifth, a gospel minister wants to speak about Jesus clearly. Does this indicate that Paul was aware that sometimes he was not as clear in his preaching as he should have been? Or is he referring to the weakness of his voice that had caused him to be dismissed by some? Perhaps he had in mind the variety of individuals who might hear him, even although he was confined. He would have preached to many different soldiers, and these soldiers would have come from different parts of the Empire, with each having his own cultural baggage. Paul would have addressed officials as they came to interview him, and they would have been more intelligent than the soldiers. Yet they both had to hear about Christ.
We know from Paul’s letter to the Philippians that he had known soul winning success even although he had been imprisoned at the time when he also wrote Colossians: ‘I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear’ (Phil. 1:12-14). Perhaps one reason for the success was the prayers of the Colossians for Paul.