In my last post I began a short series of thoughts on the prayers of Paul. I guess I was in part confessing that I sometimes worry about our prayers. It’s not just that I worry that there ought to be more of it, but I worry about what we pray for as Christians. Sometimes, I suspect that our prayers reveal how worldly we really are.
At the beginning of his letter to the Colossians, Paul writes:
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14 ESV
(It might be worth reading the whole of Colossians 1 here.)
Now the first thing I notice with this passage is that even though Paul has probably never met these Christians, he prays for them, and if you read the whole chapter you will see that he is grateful to God because they are renowned for their faith and love.
As I said in my previous post, these prayers tend to unmask the warped priorities that we sometimes carry through life. If our prayers reveal our priorities, then so too do our thanksgivings.
Notice with me again what Paul is praying for in these verses.
In the first case, Paul tells these Christians that he is asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. (v9) I think there is a danger for Chrisitans that we spend so much energy worrying about what we call “God’s will for our lives” that we miss the fact that God has a will for me today. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be open to the calling of God on our lives, indeed we should! I am saying that God’s call on the rest of my life begins with today, and I can worry about the future and forget that today God calls me.
Today he calls me to show love. Today he calls me to forgive. Today he calls me to bear with my brothers and sisters. Today he calls me to submit to my brothers and sisters. Today he calls me to share my faith. Today he calls me to receive heavenly resources. Today he calls me to pray without ceasing. Today he calls me to immerse myself in the scriptures. Today he calls me to do away with sin and compromise in my life. Today… you get the idea.
What a prayer to pray for myself and others. “Lord fill me/them with the knowledge of your will. Give me/them wisdom and understanding that my/their life might be pleasing to you.”
What outcome are you looking for in prayer? Notice Paul’s desire as he prays. He wants lives pleasing to the Lord. He wants fruit bearing lives. He wants these Christians to be increasing in the knowledge of God. He wants them to be strengthened in endurance and patience, and he wants them to be people of joy.
In short Paul is looking for high quality Christians, and that is what he prays for.
Here is a final comment for this post. Paul is so confident in the power of the gospel as he writes. This is something that some Christians would do well to notice. I have to be a bit careful here lest I get on a bit of a hobby horse but…
I get bothered by models of ministry that seem so lacking in confidence of the power of the gospel. For example, some prayer ministry models seem to have missed the sheer vastness of the scale of gospel and the decisiveness of it’s effect. Just notice the strength of v 13 “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” What Paul is saying here is that if someone is a Christian then a radical and decisive transformation has taken place. It really makes a difference that someone is a believer, they have been translated into a different kingdom, and we need to have confidence that salvation makes a massive difference.