Prayer for an Open Door
THE PRAYER FOR AN OPEN DOOR
A. The Concept of an Open Door
1. Doors: figurative language
a. The doors of which Paul speaks are obviously figurative.
b. They are not wooden doors, but doors of utterance.
c. A door is a figure of speech which represents “entrance” into something.
• Christ is the door – the entrance into eternal life!
2. The door of which Paul wrote represented the following:
a. Opportunity – entering into an opportunity (We use the same figure of speech today: an opportunity is a doorway to the future!)
b. God’s will and leading – entering into that which was opened up of the Lord. (II Cor. 2:12)
• Note here that this door had to do with preaching Christ.
• Paul came to Troas with that goal in mind, but it was the LORD who opened the door.
3. One of the ways in which God led these evangelists was through the opening and closing of doors. (Acts 16:7-10)
a. The Spirit closed one door and opened another.
b. God’s leading meant opportunity!
c. When God opened this door, the believers “assuredly gathered that the Lord had called them to preach the gospel” there. (vs. 10)
d. Paul and the other evangelists/missionaries of the first century were led by God in supernatural ways. That meant dramatic opening and closing of doors!
e. We may not be apostles or missionaries sent to the far corners of the world, and the doors of opportunity God gives us may not be quite as dramatic, but they can be just as real!
f. God provides us with opportunities to preach Christ too… we should consider them part of His leading in our lives… a door opened of the Lord!
g. When a door is opened of the Lord, God expects that we walk through that doorway!
4. Doors of opportunity were opened to Paul—and he took advantage of those open doors!
a. 2 Cor. 2:12 – a door to preach Christ opened of the Lord.
• Literally: “Having gone into Troas for the purpose of the good news of Christ, a door having been opened up (perfect participle: and it remained open!) to me BY the Lord.”
• “Of the Lord” = “en” = either BY the Lord or “In the Lord”… meaning a spiritual opportunity in Christ.
• It seems more likely here that he meant that a door was opened BY the Lord.
• God opened the door and Paul knew it.
b. 1 Cor. 16:9 – a great door and effectual!
• When God opens a door for us, it is effective… powerful… it accomplishes the goal God intended.
• We may crash through a door on our own, but it is quite ineffectual! We can do nothing on our own.
• But when God opens the door, the sky is the limit!
• There is NOTHING too hard for the Lord.
• God opened a GREAT and effectual door for Paul. This was the Lord’s doing…
• This door represented an opportunity opened up by the Lord Himself. It was part of God’s will and God’s leading in his life.
• And notice also that when Paul walked through that door, everything went smoothly! Hardly—this opportunity was accompanied by adversaries!
• God’s will is NOT void of adversaries and obstacles. Don’t interpret that being OUT of God’s will. It is part of God’s will!
• The fact that there were giants at the edge of Kadesh Barnea did not mean that God didn’t want the Israelites to march into the Land. He DID want them march in… in spite of the obstacles and giants and walled cities.
• Giants, obstacles, and adversaries are not to be viewed as closed doors—but as opportunities to follow God’s leading AND trust in Him completely for victory and success!
• Let’s not imagine for a moment that entering the doorways God opens or into God’s will means entering into a rose petal pathway…
• Once we enter into God’s will, we ought to EXPECT adversaries! Once we begin to march into the Promised Land of God’s will for our lives, we ought to expect to face giants, walled cities, and to be engaged in spiritual battle!
• That’s what following God means.
• There are many adversaries… many giants… but God is greater than them all and He is on our side! He will never leave us nor forsake us!
c. Acts 14:27 – Paul rehearsed all the open doors
• Here we see Paul returning to his home church in Antioch – the church that sent him out on the missionary journey.
• He is reporting back to the church and informs them of all the great things God did. God opened the door for the gentiles to hear the gospel!
• God opened the door in city after city… and in city after city, Paul walked through that door!
• And God did GREAT things! Many were saved! Churches were established!
B. The Context of the Open Door
1. Door of utterance defined:
a. Literally: “a door of the word.” (logos)
b. KJV translated it perfectly accurately, but it can also be translated a door of the Word.
c. The other 15 or so translations I compared had something other than “utterance”… mostly, the Word… or the message.
2. It is best to understand this as an opportunity for God’s Word… or the utterance of God revealed in the Scriptures.
3. Paul’s goal everywhere he went was to make known the Word of God and the God of the Word.
a. It was not just a message, but a Person! A message which declared and revealed the Person.
b. Paul’s personal goal in life: “That I may know Him…”
c. Paul’s goal for others was the same: “That THEY may know Him as I do!”
d. His desire was for doors to be opened for that to occur.
4. He desired God to open doors of opportunity for him to make the Savior KNOWN.
a. He desired a door for the logos of God the WORD of God… both the written Word and the Living Word!
b. The “door of utterance” in our English Bible = a door of opportunity for the WORD… written and living!
C. The Prayer
1. This was not only the desire of Paul’s heart. It was his prayer request to all the believers in Colossae.
a. Vs. 3 is a continuation of the sentence in vs. 2.
b. Paul instructed the believers to CONTINUE in prayer… constantly be praying… bringing their requests and their spiritual desires to the Lord…
c. Paul also instructed them to be WATCHING as they pray.
d. They were to be watching—awake and aware of the spiritual battle going on around them… and they were to pray in LIGHT of that battle.
e. Thus in vs. 2 Paul gives a generic call for prayer. He describes the prayer somewhat: it is to be continuous; and it is to be accompanied by a discerning watchfulness.
2. Next Paul gives a concrete, specific request for himself.
a. He requests that they ADD something to their daily prayers.
• Vs. 3 begins with the word: “withal” (hama) = at the same time as…
• Or as the Greek-English Lexicon defines it: “a point of time which is emphatically simultaneous with another point of time.”
• In other words, Paul was requesting that as they continued in prayer daily, at the same time as they were watching and praying, they would at the same time, be praying for him!
b. He asks them to pray SPECIFICALLY that God would open doors for him to make known the WORD.
• He too wants to be alert to God’s leading… and to the doors God opens before him… hence, the prayer.
c. Prayer is an expression of faith and trust.
• When we come to God in prayer, we are expressing our inadequacy and His omnipotence! That’s faith.
• In prayer we come before God to acknowledge our utter weakness, frailty, ineffectiveness, incompetence, and our inability to produce anything GOOD in His sight on our own… (in the flesh dwells no good thing)…
• AND we are expressing our desperate NEED for Him to open doors… to prepare hearts… to illuminate the Word… to do the work of SAVING.
• Prayer is an expression of our FAITH in His ability to work in and through us… as He said.
• Evangelizing without prayer is a perfect waste of time. It is nothing more than the inflated ego of man and the spiritually dead energy of the flesh.
• Evangelizing is a spiritual work that requires Spirit filled believers… waiting, resting, and trusting in God to open doors and hearts.
• Paul wanted doors opened… but he wanted to be sure that if he was going to walk through a door, that it was the LORD who opened that door.
• Rev. 3:7 – it is the Lord JESUS who opens and closes doors!
» Christ said, “I will build my Church. He is STILL building His church… from heaven.
» The risen, glorified Savior, the HEAD of the Body directs His Body from Heaven… through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
» The Head opens and closes doors for His body… to lead and guide and build the Body.
» Our job is to stay CLOSE to the Head…
» An abiding relationship to Christ… trusting and resting in Him… not taking a step without Him.
• Paul knew all too well that the flesh can DO much to push down doors to accomplish its own will… and that it requires watching and vigilance to discern the difference between a door opened of the Lord and one we push open ourselves.
• Paul had NO confidence in the flesh: hence, the need for continual prayer for these matters.
• So MUCH work has been done over the years in the service of the Lord which was accomplished in the flesh…
• This is the ONGOING DANGER of doing the Lord’s work.
d. Paul was doing the work of the Lord—preaching the gospel and establishing churches.
e. I’m certain that the other apostles spoke to Paul about the words of the Lord Jesus in the gospel of John, chapters 14-15.
• John 14:12-13 – When Christ was about to face the cross, He gave His disciples some priceless instruction concerning carrying out His work in the world… in His absence. (In between the two comings of Christ—primarily the age of grace!)
• After Christ’s departure to the Father… He was going to send these men to the uttermost parts of the world to preach the Word.
• They were to carry on His work. His work was confined to one small country: Israel. They would carry on His work to the uttermost parts of the world… hence “greater things” would they accomplish!
• They were to GO into all the world and seek God’s will and leading… seeking for opportunities to preach Christ… doors opened of the Lord!
• He has one simple lesson for them: When it comes to reproducing godliness, if you abide in Me you can do all things. (John 15:5)
• But if you do not abide in communion with Me, you will produce NOTHING of any eternal value. (John 15:5c-6)
• Of course, energetic, talented, hard working, goal oriented people CAN accomplish a lot in the world on their own.
• Whatever “fruit” they produce, (from preaching the gospel, to establishing churches, to building a religious empire)—is all wood, hay and stubble in God’s sight.
• Men will be impressed for sure. It looks like they are doing a fantastic job… because there is so much to SEE… touch…
• But if it done apart from an abiding communion with Christ and under the power and direction of the Holy Spirit, it is good for nothing but burning.
• That is basically the truth that the Lord Jesus was trying to get across in John 14-15.
f. Paul KNEW that truth. He LIVED that truth.
• He knew too well the tendency of the flesh to want to DO something on its own and the BOAST of what it did.
• He also knew that one day all of his labors would be scrutinized at the Judgment Seat of Christ… and that everything done with the wrong motive, and empowered by the flesh rather than the Spirit would be burned up.
• Paul wanted to do God’s work God’s way.
• That should be what WE strive for too.
• Therefore, we too should pray for God to open and close doors according to His perfect will… and we need to learn to wait on Him in between.
• This is the battle of faith… the vessel that abides in communion with Christ will be FILLED and equipped and led of the Lord to carry out God’s work in God’s power.
• That is the vessel FIT for the master’s use.
3. In vs. 3, Paul asks the believers to PRAY for him… that God would open a door of opportunity to preach Christ.
a. This too should be OUR prayer for one another.
b. Pray that God would open doors for each of US to witness and tell others the good news.
c. Pray that we would all be abiding in Christ and in the right spiritual condition such that we would be fit vessels for the Master’s use if He DID open a door.
d. And note also that we don’t see Paul praying for the salvation of Tom, Dick, and Harry.
• The prayer request was not for the unsaved. It was for the BELIEVERS.
• He asks that God would give believers an open door—an opportunity to preach the gospel to Tom, Dick, and Harry!
• Cf. II Thess. 3:1 – “pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course!”
• Eph. 6:19 – “?And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.”
• We tend to pray for the salvation of souls—which is GOOD… and we should.
• But let’s not forget to pray for US… for open doors…
» That we would be willing to ENTER that open door…
» And that we would be FIT vessels to present the gospel…
» And that we would be accurate in presenting the gospel.
» And that we would be compassionate and tactful in presenting the gospel.
THE PRACTICE OF AN OPEN DOOR
A. Practiced by the Apostles
1. Acts 14:27 – all along his missionary journeys, Paul followed the leading of the Lord as He opened doors of opportunity to preach Christ.
a. This took place from city to city… each leg of the journey.
b. In a sense, the opening and closing of doors is an important means of His leading us… directing our steps.
c. When God opened a door, the apostles entered!
B. Practiced by the Early Church
1. Rev. 3:8 – God opened the door for the church at Philadelphia (Asia Minor—not PA!)
a. Philadelphia is the one church that Jesus does not rebuke.
b. Even though the church was weak (little strength) from man’s perspective… God saw them as faithful!
c. Their “little strength” was not a rebuke… but rather a contrast. They were likely a small church that seemed quite unimpressive to the world and to worldly minded believers.
d. But recall the words of Paul: when I am weak then am I strong!
e. This was the case of the church in Philadelphia. God doesn’t need a big, powerful instrument to accomplish His purpose. He can use a little boy’s lunch!
f. God used a church that was weak… to accomplish His mighty purpose.
g. He opened a door of opportunity for this church and they entered in!
h. They did not deny the Lord and they kept His Word.
i. Kept = Zodhiates: to watch, observe attentively, keep the eyes fixed upon, and hence to obey by watching with vigilance…
j. Philadelphia was watching… observing what the Word said… and following through with it… sticking to the Scriptures. They were valiant for the truth.
k. Vs. 11 – Jesus told this church to keep it up and they would receive a CROWN from Him at the Bema.
l. They would be rewarded for their service… for their service was empowered by God and according to His Word.
m. God opened doors for this church and they ENTERED those doors.
n. God opened doors of opportunity for the apostles to preach Christ. God opened doors for church that were later established to do the same.
C. Practiced in Our Lives
1. God intends for US too (as individuals and as a Body) to be like the apostles and like the church at Philadelphia.
a. When God opens a door—He expects us to walk through that open doorway!
b. When God convinces us of His perfect will… and opens the door for His will to be carried out, He expects us to DO something about it!
2. None of us are apostles. Most of us will not be called upon to be a missionary/church planter.
a. Maybe some here WILL be so called—let’s pray for that!
b. God called a couple of men from the church at Antioch for such a purpose. He doesn’t call ALL—He calls some. Maybe YOU are one that God would have to serve as a missionary! Pray for God’s will along those lines.
c. But most will not be so called.
d. However, in one sense, we are ALL to be missionaries or witnesses wherever we are… and whatever our calling.
e. And if you are called to be a schoolteacher… or electrician… or policeman… or factory worker or business leader… we are ALL called to be God’s witnesses on earth.
f. And in our unique and divinely designed circle of influence, God will open doors of opportunity for each one of us to speak up for Christ and preach the good news to those around us!
3. There is great application from this passage to each of us: PRAY that God would open doors for YOU and ME to share the gospel in our little corner of the world!
a. You don’t have to go to the uttermost parts of the world to find lost people who need to hear about Christ. Just look out your window! That IS your mission field!
b. For most evangelical churches, the church is an evangelistic service… where the gospel message is preached every week.
c. The pattern of the local church in the Bible is quite different. We gather together for worship and to study the, not just the gospel, but WHOLE counsel of God… so that the saints are built up in the faith. Our evangelism service begins when this service is OVER!
d. The commission is not: “Bring them in” but “GO into all the world” and bring the message of Christ to them!
e. I am routinely criticized for not preaching the gospel every Sunday… but I am resolved to take the criticism, and stick to what the Bible says.
f. When we close in prayer and GO from here… that’s when the real evangelism takes place.
g. And did you know that in spite of our small size, we have evangelists in Massachusetts, central NH, northern NH, eastern NH and southern NH… and a few in Florida!
h. One never knows what the Lord will do. Perhaps the Lord will open doors such that a church might be planted in one those locations!
i. Our job is to keep on DOING what the Bible tells us to do as a church—teach the word, pray, break bread together, fellowship… and OUT OF that spiritually minded environment, God may call out a man to serve as a missionary or church planter!
j. Let’s pray for that!
k. Acts 13:2 – Note the words, “AS THEY MINISTERED TO THE LORD.”
• As the church in Antioch MINISTERED… functioned as a Body… God spoke!
• The church was going about its normal functions as a Body… ministering in the Body to the Lord.
• And from that setting, God directed Paul and Barnabus to GO into all the world!
• God moved in the hearts of individuals to serve Him in a unique way.
• God did not call the whole church to leave… but He did call a couple of godly men.
• This didn’t happen every day. It was a unique event.
• The prophets and teachers were teaching God’s Word… abiding in Christ… and waiting upon the Lord.
• Then, all of a sudden, GOD SPOKE! God opened a door for these two men to serve Him in a wonderful way!
• And Paul and Barnabus were WILLING to enter that door.
• As the church at Antioch ministered, God moved in the hearts of His people and called them to preach Christ.
• That is our job too… to FUNCTION as a Body as God designed us to.
• And AS WE MINISTER… God will work in the hearts of His people here too… in His time and in His way…
• In between those callings and open doors, there is a lot of waiting… and ministering.
4. But when that door opens, we are expected to MOVE!
a. Paul asked prayer that God would open more doors of opportunity for him to preach Christ.
b. Paul had the RIGHT to pray such a prayer. Why? Because in the past, God did open doors for Paul and Paul entered those doorways! Paul was faithful.
c. Hence, he can pray for more doors to open.
d. If God has opened doors for us and we don’t enter in… any prayer for God to open more doors is quite hollow and hypocritical.
e. But when we DO make good use of the opportunities God gives… we will be enthused and excited to pray for MORE doors to open… and they will… in God’s good time and way.
5. Let’s make this OUR PRAYER: God, please open unto ME a door of opportunity to be a witness for Christ and to tell others the good news!
a. Surely there are people God has brought your way who need to hear the gospel.
b. Surely there are lost souls in your circle of influence –perhaps someone with whom no other believer has contact!
• Maybe you work with some people with whom you have become friends and you want to see them saved.
• You know also that your company is not paying to you share the gospel.
• From an earthly perspective, you are there to work and to give them an honest days work.
• From heaven’s perspective, you are there as a witness for the truth of God… to represent Christ… as an ambassador for Christ.
• So PRAY that God would open a door for you to speak to those people… perhaps at a coffee break… perhaps a chance to invite him to a Bible study… to church… or to your home for dinner… with the gospel in mind!
• Christ was a friend of sinners. He ate with them; He talked with them; He showed compassion towards them; and all of this provided opportunities for Him to speak to them about their need for eternal life.
• We should pray for one another—that in our daily routine of life… in school, at work, in the neighborhood, at your son’s baseball games—wherever we are—that God would open doors of opportunity to tell others about Christ.
c. Pray—because God DOES open doors in response to our prayers.
d. And don’t forget to WATCH as you pray too. Sometimes God opens doors, and we aren’t watching! So watch and pray… pray and watch…
e. Abide in Christ… in communion with Him… a heart yielded and surrendered to Him… willing to do and say whatever God would have you to do and say. Be a vessel for the Master’s use…
f. We are not called to smash down the doors. Just walk with God and be READY… and watching. And when the door opens… take a step of faith and walk right through.
g. There is something wonderful about sharing the gospel… and leading a soul to Christ.
h. Maybe you’ve never known that joy. Watch and pray… be ready… a fit vessel for the Master to use… and you WILL experience that joy.
i. It’s like the joy of having a baby. There is nothing like it.
j. Paul spoke of the Thessalonian and Philippian believers as his crown and joy!
k. Watch and pray that you and I might enter further into this aspect of the JOY of the Lord.