As a community of people focused on making, maturing and mobilising disciples of Jesus Christ, we characterise what a disciple looks like by the term 'UP, IN, and OUT'. The UP is our relationship with God, the IN is our relationships with the community of faith and our OUT is our relationships with those in our circle of influence, our wider community who as yet are not followers of Jesus. Each time we gather as a faith community for worship, we spend time in corporate prayer, whether it be in smaller groups or across the full congregation. Next week we have a prayer vigil day, the intention being that we as a faith community dedicate a significant portion of the day to praying together. Our life groups and gospel communities also devote time to praying together. Don't misunderstand me, the prayer life of the individual disciple is important and we ought to be giving time on a daily basis to developing our UP relationship with God, but Paul's specific target in his urging of prayer in the reading today is on prayer that is done at the IN and for the OUT. The whole context of this letter of Paul to the church in Colossi and in particular, the immediate surrounds of the urging of prayer, is in the area of the gathered community. There is a place for individual prayer, but the target of Paul is the community life of the church and this is consistent with the historical description of the early Christian community as described in the Acts of the Apostles - Acts 2:42. "They devoted themselves ... to prayer ..." Here in Paul letter he also calls them to community prayer by restating the historical expectation which is in fact the life blood of the community of Jesus; prayer joins us together with the God of the Universe. Something else to notice in this passage from Paul, is the flow of the argument. Paul is urging them to be devoted to disciplined prayer by guarding that prayer life, and he qualifies this by saying that this 'guarding' is to be done with "thanksgiving" (vs 2).
Flowing out of this encouragement of the church to be devoted to prayer, is the expectation that they will pray for the mission of God that Paul is involved in and then transitions smoothly into reminding them that they also are involved directly in the mission of God (vs 4 and then 5-6). In a most heartening and community building emphasis, Paul's final words in the letter bring together prayer, mission, and fellowship/partnership. As we read and reflect on these final words of this letter, its appropriate for us to give consideration to how we apply this apostles teaching to our service of Jesus Christ, today. What can you learn of the nature and focus of being involved in the Lord's work, that will position you for being obedient to God? How might you 'devote' yourself to the mission of God through prayer and in prayers you seek to live in community with other believers and as you see to act toward outsiders (the OUT relationship) with grace, integrity and honesty.