In these troubled times what guidance does the Bible give us on the subject of prayer?
Let’s consider Paul the Apostle’s prayer for God’s people in Colossae. He was writing when Rome’s power was supreme. It was an age preoccupied with entertainment, and plagued by alcoholism and gambling. It was sexually permissive. And slavery with all its abuses was rampant. What we often forget is that the gospel of Jesus Christ triumphed for good in that world without resorting to arms.
Knowing God. Paul’s prayer of thanks to God, with which he begins, gives way to petition in verse 9. He asks God that the Colossian believers may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,…
As part of his thanks, Paul had just expressed his excitement that God’s good news was growing throughout the world. Yet as he now prays for God’s people, he prays for their growth in spiritual maturity. Why? Would this assist gospel growth in the world? Let me repeat his request: That you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding…
The word spiritual refers to the Holy Spirit. In thanking God for the believers in Colossae, Paul linked the gospel truth and the work of the Spirit. Now, as his prayer continues, he prays that the Spirit will bring Christians into a rich, personal knowledge of God. This knowing God is not filled out through human reasoning or emotions. Rather, it is because he has revealed himself through his Son and by the Holy Spirit.
Spiritual wisdom begins when the Spirit awakens our minds to God in all his power and glory. We also need the Spirit to open our minds to teach us God’s purposes so that we can live wisely in a fallen, fragmented world.
As we come to understand God, we will see that his ways stand in stark contrast to the self-serving human philosophies and lust for power that we see throughout history, such as gave rise to totalitarian extremes last century and the death of countless millions.
But Paul’s prayer is not for a dry religious intellectualism, unrelated to life. His prayer continues: So that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.
Growing in God and lifestyle. There is a significant link between our growth in knowing God and our lifestyle. We are not simply to adopt the values and lifestyle of the culture – and this may include the church culture – in which we find ourselves. Rather, we are to lead lives worthy of the Lord.
And notice, we will want to live whole-heartedly for the Lord, fully pleasing him. As we come to know God better, we will understand that he made us in his image to experience the full the joys of a trusting relationship with him. From the depths of our hearts we will want to honor him in every part of life.
Furthermore, Paul prays that, with this understanding of God, our lives will bear fruit in every good work. A friend once told me that he begins each day with the prayer: ‘Lord, what good things have you prepared for me to do today?’
Growing in the knowledge of God… We are growing organisms – not robots that have come off the end of the gospel assembly line. As we grow in our understanding and experience of living with God, he will enable us to discern his purposes in the complexities of life. How important it is that we adopt a diet of regular Bible reading and are involved in a church that faithfully teaches the Bible.
Now you may be thinking, ‘This is wonderful, but how can I do it?’ Paul anticipates our question and continues: May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience and with joy,…
He prays that God will equip us with the mentality that tackles the tough issues of life and the stamina to persevere. He asks that we will have the resolution and the determination to stay in the marathon of Godly living. Paul well knows that it is one thing to start, but another to finish.
So he prays that God’s people will have the capacity to survive stressful times with wisdom, overcome insult with composure, and most of all, know that God can be trusted to be working out his all-wise and all-good purposes even when the unexpected occurs.
Joyfully giving thanks to the Father… Not to thank God is to fail to understand the magnitude and depth of his love when he brought us from the rule of darkness to the kingdom of his beloved Son.
God has brought his people from darkness and into the kingdom of the most powerful, righteous and kindest of all kings – Jesus Christ, his Son, our Lord. Surely our only true response must be one of joy and gratitude. We will want to sing!
Indeed, as we grow in the riches of God’s love and as we walk in his ways, God will use our increasingly evident new lifestyle to draw others to the good news under which we now live.
Let’s always pray for growth as we walk joyfully with the Lord.