There are a number of aspects of the Christian life in which I need to grow. One of the more difficult ones for me is . . . prayer! True, I thank the Lord for my food, I pray for my grandchildren, and I occasionally intercede for others in trouble. But my prayers are not nearly the solid, well-thought-out petition to God that we find from the Apostle Paul in Colossians 1. Let’s look at his prayer one more time:
We’ve seen, first of all,
I. Paul’s Strategic Commitment to Pray for Others (v. 9)
Let’s move into the prayer itself and notice —
II. Paul’s Specific Content in His Praying for Others (vv. 9-12)
Paul’s first request (of the seven we will consider) for these believers is that they would be —
A. Filled with a Knowledge of His Will (v. 9)
The topic of God’s will is a popular one among Christians — and one that brings with it a lot of confusion. Some believers think that we must somehow divine God’s will, for it is hidden and mysterious and must be pursued with a kind of gnostic aggression (“I must find out what the will of God for me in this situation is!”). The scholar Bruce Waltke wrote a fine little book on this topic entitled Finding the Will of God: A Pagan Notion? He says that Christians “ought to stamp out of our vocabulary the nonbiblical and misleading expression ‘finding God’s will.'” God is not a divine sleight-of-hand artist with an elusive will that we must find like the proverbial pea in a heavenly shell game. God’s will, after all, is clear! God wants us to be holy, to be mature, to be more like Jesus. God is all about forging our character and welcoming us into greater intimacy with him.
Waltke writes, “God is not a magic genie. The use of promise boxes, or flipping open your Bible and pointing your finger, or relying on the first thought to enter your mind after a prayer are unwarranted forms of Christian divination.” (p. 12). Later he says, “. . when I wonder about which job offer to take, I don’t go through a divination process to discover the hidden message of God. Instead I examine how God has called me to live my life, what my motives are, what He has given me a heart for, where I am in my walk with Christ, and what God is saying to me through His Word and His people.” (p. 16).
So what does it mean when Paul prays for these believers to be “fill[ed] with the knowledge of His will”? I believe he is praying that these Christians would grow more and more dependent on the leading of God the Holy Spirit (he writes “through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives”) and that they would live their lives in certainty, not confusion, in serving the Lord.
May I suggest that it is not God’s will that is mysterious. It’s ours! It’s a complete mystery why we don’t pursue every aspect of life with the confident expectation that God will guide us, use us, and empower us to live for Him. (to be continued)