Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.3 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— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
– Colossians 4:2-4
I was asked to illustrate this text with an emphasis on being “devoted to prayer.” The word translated as “continue steadfastly” above carries the idea of focused, persistent attention. How to show this visually? Well, Paul is not saying that we should be constant or devoted to prayer in the sense of being always on our knees or always in intentional, verbalized prayer. Rather the idea seems to be all of life carried out with a heart-posture of dependence on the Lord and in a way that makes room for regular rhythms of prayer….living with prayer as a vital and intentional part of daily existence.
I tried to show this idea of consistent “rhythms” of prayer by drawing the praying man at the bottom of the picture in a sort of “timelapse” fashion. The intent there was to use the two dimensional medium of a picture to represent the way a believer’s life is devoted to prayer across time, namely, in a life carried out in a posture of dependence on the Lord punctuated by seasons of focused prayer. The “rhythms” of the man’s prayer life form the contoured wings of a dove, representing the Holy Spirit. This is because all true Christian prayer is carried out by and in and through the ministry of the indwelling Spirit (Rom.8:15,26; Eph.6:18).
In both Colossians 4:2-4 and its sister passage in Ephesians 6:18-20, the central focus of prayer to which Paul calls his readers is the furtherance of the gospel of Christ. Because of this I drew a small, silhouetted man in the very center of the image, surrounded by the representation of the Spirit. Above this man I drew a representation of Christ, since the heart of the gospel message that we proclaim IS the person of Jesus Himself (1 Cor.2:2, 2 Cor.4:5, Col.1:28). The wounded hand of Christ is raised because whom we proclaim is specifically Christ crucified and risen. It is only in His death and resurrection that atonement for sins and justification for sinners is accomplished, and only by this act of climactic redemption that He is revealed to be–and so reveals–God. Our gospel is like that of Isaiah (Is.40:9), “Behold your God–” in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.
Lastly, in the distance I drew depictions of various religions and philosophies and worldviews, all of these are in the darkness with the sun rising behind them. Christ alone is the light of the world–the true revelation of Who God Is–and only in His name will eyes be opened and souls be turned “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in [Him]” (Acts 26:18). May that be our constant prayer!