How would you describe your prayer life? How would others describe it? I’ve always been surprised by how Paul describes Epaphras’ prayer in Colossians 4. He tells the believers in Colossae that Epaphras is “always struggling on your behalf in his prayers” (4:12). Struggling. That’s not a word we usually think of when we talk of prayer. When I read passages like that, it seems like prayer is something that is more exercise than piety! That seems about right considering that when I dug a little deeper, it turns out Paul is using word which often comes up in the context of sports or battle. It’s word that conveys physical agony. He uses it two others times in Colossians—once to describe his ministry disciple-making (1:29) and again in chapter 2 for his own prayers for the believers he’s never met in Colossae and Laodecia (2:1).
What are we to make of this “struggle” language? Were these guys just really into prayer? Actually, I think Paul may have had Genesis 32 in mind when he went about prayer. There, Jacob physically and spiritually wrestles with God, refusing to let him go until he is blessed. And since, Epaphras likely came to faith through the ministry of Paul, it’s not unreasonable to think Paul taught him how to pray. Even how to struggle in prayer.
Beyond, Epaphras, Paul, and Jacob, we see others many others wrestling or struggling in prayer in the Bible, especially in the Psalms. We even see that Jesus himself prayed in agonizing ways, most famously in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46).
I see these examples and can’t help but wonder why we don’t seem to struggle in prayer? Of course I really do mean we. I don’t struggle much, but I don’t think that’s unique to me. Maybe all the believers I know are too humble to talk about it, but I’ve rarely heard anyone describe the way they pray in such physical terms. Prayer is usually described in much more simple, scheduled, even safe ways. Maybe it’s time we struggle a little more?
Before the objections fly, let me be clear. I’m certainly not advocating a new standard that says if you aren’t tired from weeping and struggling in prayer than you haven’t really prayed. Nevertheless, I am advocating we stop and consider the biblical pattern of struggling in prayer. My guess is that most of take prayer too lightly. Yes, there is a place for the kind of on-going “arrow” prayers that we launch throughout the day (1 Thess 5:17; Neh 2:4). There’s also a place for regular, sweet routines of communion with the Lord, where we pray from the overflow of reading his word and have all kinds of lists, reminders, and calendars with requests to pray over for other believers.
But do we ever struggle in prayer? Do we ever fall into bed exhausted from the energy expended by intercession? If you’re like me, the answer is “Not enough.” But why is that our answer? Maybe we don’t take God seriously enough. Do we affirm his sovereignty but fail to connect it to our praying, leaving us doubtful that he will answer in dramatic ways? Maybe we don’t love others deeply enough. That’s probably hard for some of us to believe. But if God’s work in their life is the best thing for them, why don’t we devote more energy to lifting them up before our Father’s throne? Wouldn’t our burdens for them demand it? Maybe we’re more interested in other things. As one friend recently point out to me, it’s possible to overstate the case; nevertheless, there is still much truth to the fact that we are very distracted by media and entertainment. Maybe we simply don’t give ourselves enough time to pray?
Still yet, maybe we’ve just never thought about it enough. Maybe the best thing we can do is simply think. Perhaps we should pause and ponder these examples from Scripture. Consider the testimony of those who struggled in prayer. Maybe it will lead us to think about prayer differently. Maybe we’ll even begin feeling more tired in the coming days.
I believe that what you’re saying here is extremely accurate. Just this morning, after having spent several hours in intercession, I found myself so exhausted that I slept for 2 hours. I think it is important to remember that we are wrestling against rulers, authorities, mighty powers and spiritual forces in heavenly places (Eph 6:12 NLT). After waking up from my nap, I thought I would do a search to see if anyone else was experiencing this issue, as I believe what I have been feeling is more than just “being tired”. Thank you for this post.
Thanks for commenting. Keep praying!
I feel very tired after leading a ladies home group prayer meeting. I pray for each lady individualy. Once done and all leave i am so exhausted. I lay down and actually fell asleep. Is this normal
Yes! Same here! Thank you so much for this post and your comment above.
I’ve feeling this fir a while… today I decided to search if I’m the only one to feel this way. tonight was praying for my family and my mother who has been struggling with alcoholism for years. after praying I felt so tired and hungry.
I do get exhausted after fasting and prayer and have been wondering if its laziness or have been praying in flesh not in spirit but am encouraged most people go through this.
Whenever I’ve prayed Intercessory prayer and I felt God’s Spirit moving through me powerfully. I received great strength, energy during the prayer. I sense answers and blessings. Afterwards I eat a good meal. I feel hungry 😄But the following day tired, sleepy and exhausted. I know this is normal. I’ve been an fervent prayer warrior for over 27 years now. But I feel so humble and blessed that God moves through me. Hallelujah 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾
I’ve had the feeling before but today I was praying on my knees but felt compelled to lay flat. Before I knew it I was waking up but I woke up with words in my heart. New words in direct response to my prayers.
Hello fellow prayers! I get tired after some relatively short prayers, 5 minutes or so. I suspect this is due to the nature of the battle. It happened this week after interceding for a friend’s family. While after an hour’s prayer meeting I am invigorated.
I’m new to Christ – 18 months. But called to battle straight away. So I am getting to know these things.