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Epaphras was a Colossian. He's mentioned only three times in the Scriptures, but Paul says so much about him in those three references that we feel we know him well. He describes him as a faithful minister of Christ. That's what he was to the Christians in Colossae. He was their teacher. He put God's word into their hearts, and there it bore fruit and increased. "Make disciples" the Lord Jesus said, before He went back to heaven, "baptizing them ... teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you", and that's what Epaphras did. He showed them Christ in the Scriptures, so appealingly that they wanted to follow Him too. And when they started to follow he was at hand to encourage them, until they gathered strength themselves and were able to go out and help others.

But Epaphras wasn't always at Colossae. Something happened that he found himself in prison at Rome, along with the apostle Paul. What it was, we're not told. So his teaching work among the Colossians was over. But he could still reach them through prayer. And that's what he did. This dear man gave himself to a new ministry on behalf of those Christians who were now so far away and yet so close to his heart. He gave himself to prayer. He literally gave himself to it. The language Paul uses to describe his praying is most arresting. He's always striving for you in his prayers, he wrote. It's the word used of an athlete in the games. It means to agonize. See the runner pounding down the course,

every muscle strained; only one object in view - to reach the goal. That's the sort of energy and concentration Epaphras brought into his praying. Not just a few minutes by his bedside morning and evening. No! this was his work. "I bear him witness" said the apostle, "that he hath much labour for you, and for them in Laodicea, and for them in Hierapolis" (Col. 4:13). So his concern reached beyond the Christians in his home church, to those in neighbouring churches. What a man he was!

Why was so much prayer needed? And why was it such a labour? Because there were spiritual hosts of wickedness against the disciples Satanic powers of evil - and there still are. Those who take a serious part in the work of God find it can be a spiritual conflict. Paul wrote about it in Ephesians chapter 6, and after calling on us to put on the whole armour of God, he says "with all prayer and supplication, praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints".

God is looking for Epaphras4ike men and women today who will strive for others in prayer. Are you willing to be one of them? Who among us is willing for this sort of praying?