Category Archives: prayer
This book, Resilient Ministry by Bob Burns, Tasha D. Chapman, and Donald C. Guthrie, is quite helpful. Its subtitle — “What Pastors Told Us About Surviving and Thriving” — orients the reader to the book’s (and the study’s) purpose.
Here are several quotes about PRAYER that I found challenging:
The Puritan Thomas Goodwin shared: “That our fallen nature is actually allergic to God and never wants to get too close to him. Thus our fallen nature constantly pulls us away from prayer.”
“For the majority of the Christian centuries most pastors have been convinced that prayer is the central and essential act for maintaining the essential shape of the ministry to which they were ordained. . . . Have conditions changed so much in our age that prayer is no longer fit to be the formative act? Have developments in theology shown other things to be central and prayer at the periphery? Or have we let ourselves be distracted, diverted, and seduced. I think we have.” (Eugene Peterson, Working the Angles).
We are looking at prominent themes in the epistle to the Colossians. And this morning we want to once again notice the theme of prayer in Chapter 1 (before we move on to Chapter 2). We’ve already seen Paul’s labor in prayer for these believers, but something else in his prayer has gotten my attention. Let’s read over verses 9-14 once again:
9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Here’s what strikes me: Paul is not quietly and silently lifting these believers up before the Lord. His prayer is public and he sends his prayer to the Colossians in a letter! A letter which (I believe) Paul knew would become holy Scripture, read by followers of Jesus forever! Others can see and read what Paul’s concerns are for these Christians. The Colossians, no doubt, would read and re-read his prayer over and over again. They would be reminded of his longing that they would be “filled with the knowledge of God’s will,” that they would “live a life worthy of the Lord,” that they would seek to “please him in every way,” etc.
Do I pray that way for anyone? Or do I just pray that they will get a job, grow strong in their marriage, have their health restored, etc? And IF I prayed for someone else as Paul did here, would I write that down and give it to them? Or do I spend most of my prayer time praying for myself and a pony?
A man went to see his doctor. The doctor said to the man, “I have some very bad news for you. I am so sorry.” The man said “What?!” The doctor said, “You’re going to die!” The man said, “How much time do I have, Doc?’ The doctor said ’10’.” “Ten?” The man said. “Ten what? Ten years? Ten months? WHAT?!” The doctor said, “9. 8. 7.”
Now, I’ve not been told that I only have six months to live, but what if that were true? What would I do for the next six months? How would my life change? What priorities would take center stage in my life? How would such news impact my relationship with others — my unsaved friends, my fellow Christians, my wife, my children and grandchildren?
The spiritual discipline that I probably struggle the most with is . . . PRAYER! I think of prayer as a kind of last-resort-passive-practice when I can’t solve my own problems. It seems I have God on speed dial and His only number is 911.
Mind if I give you an assignment? Study one of the great prayers of the Bible (the Apostle Paul has some fantastic ones in his epistles). Make a note below in the Comments’ section which prayer you studied. How would your prayer life change if you prayed like that? [I’ve studied Paul’s prayer in Colossians and you can access that prayer here.]
I suffer from a poor view of prayer. I do. I look at prayer as a last resort, a kind of 911 approach to the Lord. When all my efforts have failed, then I pray.
I don’t think I’ve scratched the surface of what prayer ought to mean to me — individually. I have not because I ask not. I rely on my own strength and lose my battles time and time again. The “I-can-do-it-myself” childish protest keeps me from expressing daily trust in the Lord and relying on His strength and wisdom. I’ve got a lot to learn about my personal need for consistent, disciplined, personal prayer.
But what about others? What obligations do I have to bring others before the throne of grace, to intercede for them, to present their needs before the Father? What responsibility is mine to envision where they should be spiritually and to help them get there by talking about them to my Heavenly Father?
The Apostle Paul sets the example for us here in Colossians 1. Let’s look at the words he uses to bring these believers — and their most critical needs — before the Lord:
I can’t help it, but I’m always thinking of the question, “Will this preach?” So, here’s the beginning of a draft outline I’m working on.
I. Paul’s Strategic Commitment to Pray for Others (v. 9)
Paul uses expressions like “we have not stopped praying for you” and “we continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will . . .” Persistence in prayer — for others — is the point here. I’m reminded of Luke 18 and what we saw in a previous post about a widow’s need and an unjust judge. A couple of posts back we wrote: A widow desperately needs the help of a judge who neither feared God nor cared about what people thought. She pesters him with her request, to the point that he says, “‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
Jesus says, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?” (v. 7). Jesus told this parable “to show them that they should always pray and not give up (v. 1). Have you started praying for others? Be persistent and don’t give up!
But what constitutes Paul’s prayer here in Colossians 1? What are the specific requests which he makes of the Father for these believers? (to be continued)
Praying for others is a challenge, don’t you think? For many of us, praying for self is a daily concern. We’re not sure what to pray for. Or we just jump into our day, depending upon our own wit and wisdom, perhaps hardly giving a thought to the many serious challenges that we will face.
I know I have a lot to learn about praying for my own life in a way that pleases God and prepares me to do the kind of spiritual battle that confronts me every day. Somehow I’ve convinced myself — with Satan and his minions no doubt assisting me — that I don’t need to pray about myself all that much. But prayer for myself recalibrates my thinking, reorders my priorities, realigns my desires to those that please the Lord.
But what about others? What is my responsibility in praying for them? Here the Apostle Paul sets the standard in Colossians 1 in lifting up others before the throne of God. Let’s begin our study of this truth-packed prayer in this text:
(Did you read through Paul’s prayer 5 times? I followed my own advice and read through this prayer 5 times. I put a check mark √ upon completing each reading). √√√√√
There is so much here. This is a jam-packed prayer, meaty in its theology, broad in its requests, extremely practical in its details. I will try to limit my discussion of this apostolic prayer to five posts, but that will be difficult!
Just a few general observations to begin:
1. Do you see the entire Trinity involved in Paul’s prayer? We have the Father specifically mentioned in verse 12 (“the Father who has qualified you . . .”) and in verse 13 (“he has rescued us . . .”). We have the Spirit in verse 9 (“the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives”). And we have the Son in verses 13-14 (“brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves in whom we have redemption . . .”).
2. We also notice — before we look at the content of Paul’s prayer — his commitment to praying for these believers. Paul says he began praying for the Colossian believers from “the day we heard about you” (v. 9). He declares that “we have not stopped praying for you” (v. 9). May I say this gently but seriously — some of us have not even started praying for the people we ought to lift up before the Lord! Paul then says, “we continually ask God . . .” (v. 9). Persistence in prayer is a lost discipline. Our have-it-now-when-we-want-it conditions us to instant answers. We don’t labor in prayer. We might think that if we pray at all, it only has to be once. Why repeat our requests?
Luke 18:1-8 is a powerful challenge to persistence in prayer. A widow desperately needs the help of a judge who neither feared God nor cared about what people thought. She pesters him with her request, to the point that he says, “‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
Jesus says, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?” (v. 7). Jesus told this parable “to show them that they should always pray and not give up (v. 1). Have you started praying for others? Be persistent and don’t give up! (to be continued)
Willing to risk the stench of a decaying human body, Jesus tells those in charge of Lazarus’ tomb to “take away the stone.” Let’s continue thinking through this chapter and read our next section of John 11 …
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
How critical is prayer? Well, for the Lord Jesus, prayer served a variety of purposes (see our previous series of posts on John 17 entitled “What Did Jesus Pray About?”).
Here, just as the stone is removed from Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus prays. He says, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” (vv. 41-42).
Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the young seminarian who was asked to open the church service in prayer. He prayed a long, complicated, deep prayer and then said, “Amen.” The pastor, who was not always the most gracious, whispered to him, “I have never heard a better and more eloquent prayer — prayed to people!”
Jesus must have prayed this prayer out loud, for it was for the people. Not to impress them. But to challenge them to believe. Where else in our study of this chapter does Jesus emphasize belief? (to be continued)