12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
13 For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis.
I think sometimes it is easy for us to overlook the closing remarks in Paul’s letters. We gloss over the mentions of Lucius, Gaius, Aquila, Priscilla, and of course, Timothy and “Luke the beloved physician.” And yet these are part of the letters, part of the text of Scripture, every bit as much as Exodus 20 or John 14:6.
In today’s verses we are told about Epaphras, who is apparently from Colosse and sends his greetings back to the churches of his homeland in Asia Minor. The name Epaphras is a contraction, a shortened form of the name Epaphroditos – which means someone dedicated to the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite. We are told that this man is praying for his home church. Here we have a man who was once a pagan, who undoubtedly participated in all sorts of immoral acts of “worship,” who is now praying to the living God for the perfection and fulfillment and, we might assume, salvation of his friends and relatives.
More importantly, we are told that Epaphras is “laboring fervently” in his prayers. The Greek word used here is one that you might recognize: “agonizomenos.” Yes, Epaphras was AGONIZING in his prayers for his fellow Colossians – suffering, toiling, or, as Thayer puts it, “struggling with strenuous zeal to obtain something.”
How often do WE agonize in our prayers for something or someone? Paul tells us that Epaphras is ALWAYS agonizing in his prayers. In verse 13, Paul says he will testify of Epaphras’ zeal for Colosse and two other towns nearby, Laodicea and Hierapolis. Ah, yes, Laodicea. If Laodicea had maintained even a part of Epaphras’ zeal, then perhaps Jesus would not have said of them in Revelation 3:16:
“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth.”
Are our prayers lukewarm, or are they fervent? Do we agonize and struggle for others? Or do we merely thank God for His blessings and drop off our “laundry list” of people and things we are supposed to be praying for? Plainly, we are meant to be like Epaphras, the “faithful minister of Christ.” (Colossians 1:7) We are meant to enter into a contest against the Accuser (Satan), and to struggle with all our being for the maturing and fulfillment of those who seek God’s will – including ourselves. May we all be so passionate as Epaphras.
Almighty God, who made the heavens and the earth with but a word, please hear my prayer. Help me, O Lord, to be passionate, fervent, and always zealous for Your will in my own life and in the lives of my family, my friends, and my community. Let me always pray with the agonizing passion of Your precious Son Jesus, in Whose Holy Name I pray. Amen.