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.
The second mark of the ordinary Christian is that he prays steadfastly for those in ministry.
Prayer for those in ministry
Paul asks that we not only limit to prayers for ourselves, but also pray for those in formal ministry. This does not mean that prayer for ourselves is selfish. Prayer for ourselves to become like Christ is anything but selfish, because such prayers glorify God. They glorify God in the now by showing that the Christian lives entirely on the grace of God. They glorify God in the long run, because as we become more like Christ, he becomes more visible to those we share our lives with, and in that he is glorified. Paul is drawing a logical conclusion: if believers are praying that they become more like Christ, it is because they want Christ to be glorified. But it is not enough to live like Christ. Ultimately, he must be proclaimed.
More often than not, it is teachers and pastors and evangelists who are given the opportunity to proclaim the gospel of Christ. A good reason for this is that they are specifically tasked with the responsibility of clearly articulating the gospel, that both believers and non-believers might hear and receive the grace of God. It is essential that we pray that this word from the Bible be clear, that Christ might be glorified by verbal proclamation. Those in formal ministry need these prayers simply because it is difficult for them to maintain their conviction and clarity by sheer willpower, especially in the face of opposition and stony hearts.
They need the grace of God to open doors to the word.
They need the grace of God to convict their hearts of the truth of sin, the righteousness of Christ and the judgment to come.
They need the grace of God to persevere in the face of opposition.
They need the grace of God to boldly and clearly proclaim the gospel, despite the suffering and persecution it will bring.
The latter is especially true of missionaries who have to confront a hostile culture with the gospel. Suffering is the price of the gospel, and it is price more keenly felt by those on the mission field. We should pray that God will help them to persevere for his cause, open for them a door for the word, and that they might clearly proclaim Christ crucified as they ought to. In doing so, Christ is glorified as people from more and more nations are gathered.
At this point you might realise that it would be impossible to pray for everyone in formal ministry during the course of your day. But we are not asked to pray for everyone. Paul appeals to the fact that the Colossians know who he is. Similarly, we ought to pray for those that we know first. This would be our pastors and teachers and perhaps missionary friends. Outside this circle, we can pray for missionaries we know of. This might require us to get in touch with a mission agency and praying for their missionaries. Good alternatives would be to look at things like Global Prayer Digest or the Joshua Project.
Finally, I want to add that prayers need not be restricted to those in ‘formal’ ministry. Some of you might see no distinction between praying for missionaries and praying for the work of evangelism in the city – I would want to argue for a maintenance of the distinction between a missionary and lay people like me doing the work of evangelism (especially in light of the increasing emphasis on what it means to be a missional church), but would encourage prayer for the gospel-spreading work of both.