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Connections between the Bible and prayer: Paul’s prayer in Colossians

Friday September 28 2018

Connections between the Bible and prayer: Paul’s prayer in Colossians

When I was about 24, I went to a five-day conference where we studied Colossians. I came away so impressed with the Apostle Paul’s prayer in the first chapter.

In verses 3-5 Paul says that he thanks God for the Colossians’ faith in Jesus Christ and the love they have for “all the saints.” Then he describes how he learned about their faith.

Next he describes the way he prays for them. When he says “heard of it” in the first line, he’s referring to the way they came to faith.

“For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 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. 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, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.” (Colossians 1:9-12)

At that conference, so many years ago, I had a big AHA moment based on the first sentence of the prayer. Paul prays they will be filled with the knowledge of God’s wisdom in order to please God in the way they live, in order to bear fruit, and in order to grow in the knowledge of God.

This is a kind of spiral upwards. As we learn of God’s will, as we obey God and follow God’s guidance, we will bear fruit. As we obey and bear fruit, we grow in the knowledge of God. Knowledge begets a certain way of life. That way of life, honoring God, enables us to bear fruit. And this honoring of God and fruit-bearing in our life increases our knowledge of God. This sequence has inspired so many of my prayers for myself and for others.

The second sentence of the prayer is also powerful. Paul prays for God’s power to fill the Colossians. Not so they can do great things. Not so they can be happy. I’m sure he’d be glad if they were able to achieve great things and be happy people, but he’s praying for God’s power in their lives so they can endure hard things and continue to be grateful to God when times get tough.

This is the kind of power I have needed so many times when facing challenges. Paul’s prayer has validated for me that Christians experience hard things, and when that happens we don’t have to blame ourselves for struggling. Our challenge in hard times is to pray for ourselves along the lines of Paul’s prayer, asking God to help us draw on God’s power as much as we can so we can continue to be thankful for God’s blessings to us.

Paul’s prayer in Colossians is one of dozens of prayers in the Bible that can help us grow in understanding how to draw near to God. This prayer helps us understand how and why to pray for knowledge of God for ourselves and others – so we can respond with our lives, bear fruit, and continue to grow in the knowledge of God. This prayer helps us understand how and why to pray for God’s power – so we can endure hard things with continued thankfulness for God’s blessings.

(Next week: more about Paul’s prayers. Illustration by Dave Baab. If you’d like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up under “subscribe” in the right hand column.)

I’m still trying to get out the word about my new book, Nurturing Hope: Christian Pastoral Care in the Twenty-First Century. Please let the pastoral care people at your church know about it. There are some clear and helpful reviews of the book on the amazon.com page. Just click on the book title in the first line of this paragraph.

Previous posts in this series:

          Connections between the Bible and prayer    
          The character of God and prayer      
          The context of the Lord’s Prayer                
           Instructions from the Apsotle Paul                   



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