I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
Introduction: Paul, a Man of Prayer
There was an article from 'Our Daily Bread' magazine which talks about the prayer life of John Knox. It says:
"While very ill, John Knox, the founder of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, called to his wife and said, "Read me that Scripture where I first cast my anchor." After he listened to the beautiful prayer of Jesus recorded in John 17, he seemed to forget his weakness. He began to pray, interceding earnestly for his fellowmen. He prayed for the ungodly who had thus far rejected the gospel. He pleaded on behalf of people who had been recently converted. And he requested protection for the Lord's servants, many of whom were facing persecution. As Knox prayed, his spirit went Home to be with the Lord. The man of whom Queen Mary had said, "I fear his prayers more than I do the armies of my enemies," ministered through prayer until the moment of his death."
Another man who never failed to pray for his fellow believers and others during his life and ministry was the Apostle Paul. His writings are full of prayers on behalf of those whom he is addressing in his various letters. And the book of Colossians is no exception. In this book, written to the people of Colossae we see this man of God beginning his epistle by telling them how thankful he is about the spiritual attainments of this church and his continued prayer for their spiritual knowledge, strength and growth as they continue to live their lives for Jesus Christ.
Let us look more carefully at this section of God's Word, found in Colossians 1:1-14, and see how we can improve our own prayer lives on behalf of our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
However, before we do this, we should give a little background information to this epistle written by Paul.
I. Background to the Book of Colossians
Colossae, today, is part of modern Turkey. But in the first century it was a city in Phrygia, in the Roman province of Asia. Its population was mostly Gentile, although it had a large Jewish settlement as well.
The church at Colossae was begun during Paul's 3 year ministry at Ephesus. However, the Apostle didn't found the church. In fact, we find out that he had never even been to the city. It was rather started by Epaphras who apparently was saved at Ephesus. From there he likely went back to Colossae where he began the church.
The book of Colossians was written by the Apostle Paul when he was in Rome during his first imprisonment which is recorded at the end of the book of Acts. This letter is one of 4 epistles written during this time between 60-62 A.D.
A major reason for writing this letter is the fact that a dangerous heresy had arisen in the Church that threatened it. It contained elements of what was later to be called Gnosticism. The heresy taught such things as God and the spiritual world being good but matter being evil. It said that Christ was merely one of a series of emanations descending from God. They taught that He was less than God. This lead them to deny His true humanity. The teaching also included the belief in a secret, higher knowledge above Scripture for enlightenment and salvation.
The heresy in Colossae also included elements of Jewish legalism. They believed in the necessity of circumcision for salvation. They also observed aspects of Old Testament Jewish ceremonial law. For example, the dietary laws, festivals and Sabbaths. And there was further a rigid asceticism. Asceticism is a self-denial or a strict avoidance of all forms of indulgence, usually for religious reasons.
So, Paul, concerned about this problem, wrote to the Christians who were being exposed to the heresy going on there. As he combats this heretical teaching he develops the theme of this book, which is the supremacy and all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ, our Savior.
With these things in mind, let us look at his opening statements and prayer for the Colossians, beginning with his prayer of thanksgiving for them.
II. Prayer of Thanksgiving for the Believers (1-8)
As we think about praying for others it may seldom occur to us that we need to be thankful for them and for the spiritual lives that they already have, as well as some of the attainments that they may have achieved up to this point by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit living in them.
Mostly we think of physical needs and health concerns. And while petitions like this are fine, the spiritual aspects of a person's life are far more important and eternal. And Paul's focus in his writings weighed heavily toward spiritual things.
After his standard greetings in verses 1 and 2 he immediately starts talking about his constant prayers of thanksgiving for the Colossians. He tells them in verse 3:
"We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you."
And just why is he thanking the Father?
In verses 4-7 he says that it was because of the fact that he heard of their faith in Christ and love for all the saints. He also gave thanks because of the hope laid up for them in heaven which they had heard by way of the gospel that had come to them as it also had to all the world and brought forth fruit even in them since the day they heard and knew the grace of God.
They heard it from Epaphras, who was a dear fellow servant and faithful minister of Christ on their behalf. It was also Epaphras who had informed Paul about all of these things regarding these saints. He specifically declared to him about their love in the Spirit.
The word gospel here, in Greek, means "good news" and was used in classical Greek in the sense of the good news of victory in battle. Here it is referring to the good news of the victory of Jesus Christ over Satan, sin and death.
The fruit in this passage alludes to the saving effect of the preaching of the gospel to these believers and the growth of the church. That growth would probably include the fruit of the Spirit which Paul talks about in Galatians 5:22,23. That fruit consists of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. This comes as a result of the Spirit's filling of the believer.
Once again, these are all things that the Colossians have currently attained. However, they are nothing to brag about. They're the result of God's continuing work of salvation in their lives and the Lord is worthy of praise and thanksgiving for them.
After giving thanks for these things, the Apostle moves on to praying for their continued spiritual growth. Knowing what they are going through and the heresy that is all around them, he wants the Lord to strengthen them by their being filled with spiritual wisdom and knowledge as they continue to live their lives in the culture that is no friend of God.
III. Prayer for Spiritual Wisdom and Knowledge (9-14)
It is obvious that Paul followed his own admonitions which he made in I Thessalonians 5:17 to pray without ceasing. For he tells the Colossians in verse 9 of chapter 1 that from the moment that he heard of the their fruitful lives he did not cease to pray for them. Paul always had his heart inclined to prayer and it was a high priority in his life. Further, that was true especially when it came to the believers to whom he ministered.
And what did he ask the Lord for?
First of all that they be filled with the knowledge of the Lord's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. The Greek Word for knowledge is the usual term used. However, the added phrase "of His will" here implies not just a superficial inner impression or a feeling, but a deep and complete knowledge of God that is found in the Scriptures.
The idea of spiritual wisdom in this passage is the ability to accumulate and organize principles from the Bible. And understanding is the application of those same principles to ones daily life.
The goal of this filling is that they would walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects. He wanted them to bear fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
John MacArthur says of this:
"Spiritual growth cannot occur apart from this knowledge. The evidences of spiritual growth include a deeper love of God's Word, a more perfect obedience, a strong doctrinal foundation, an expanding faith and a greater love for others."
Paul continues in verse 11 that he desires that the Colossians be strengthened with all power according to His glorious might for the purpose of attaining all steadfastness and patience.
These terms are actually closely related. They both refer to an attitude that a person has during trials. Patience refers to the enduring of difficult circumstances and steadfastness is the enduring of difficult people in your life.
Paul's final results that he wanted to see from the Colossian's was that they give thanks to the Father, who has qualified all of us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.
The inheritance that is ours should be something that we are thrilled about every day, for we have so much to look forward to in our futures together. It truly should make us want to thank Him who made it all possible.
The word light here refers to two things. Intellectually it speaks of divine truth. Morally it is divine purity.
Once again John MacArthur tells us:
"The saints' inheritance exists in the spiritual realm of truth and purity where God Himself dwells. Light then is a synonym for God's Kingdom."
In verses 13 and 14 Paul goes further into what God has done for us. He states:
"For He has rescued 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."
If we had any reason to doubt the love of God and His great work on our behalf, Paul clears it up here. And His prayer for the Colossians is a beautiful expression of the Apostle's care for them. He wanted the Lord to give them so much more than some earthly fulfillment of a temporal prayer. Paul wanted them to know, be excited about and praise God for a wonderful and glorious eternity in the presence of the one who has given them everything good in this world and the next. And He has given that to us who believe today as well.
As we come to the end of these introductory verses in the wonderful book of Colossians and to the end of Paul's prayer for the believers at Colossae it reminds me of the power of the prayers of one person on behalf of another, or on behalf of a group of people. And it shows me how the Lord can take this person's dedication and use that prayer in a great and mighty way.
An illustration of this can be seen in the story of William Carey. Just like the Colossians had someone praying for them, the Great Missionary William Carey had a person seeking the throne of grace on his behalf as well. An unknown author tells this true account about the the man who became known as the father of modern missions. He states:
It's been stated these days, "They just don't make missionaries like William Carey. anymore." Carey changed the history of missions and the face of India 200 years ago. However, few know of Carey's sister, paralyzed and bedridden for 50 years. Although unable to speak for much of that period, with great effort she allowed herself to be propped up in bed. She wrote long encouraging letters to her brother. And she prayed for him several hours per day for 50 years!
There is no doubt that the combination of the letters and the faithful prayers of this woman of God is largely responsible for the success that Carey ultimately had in his ministry.
And what of the prayers of others who, over the centuries of the Christian Church have prayed for the great causes that have brought the gospel message to most of the people of this world?
We need to take a major lesson from Carey's sister and from the great Apostle Paul by praying for one another. We must thank God, both for the spiritual attainments that have been achieved, and for the ones that could be accomplished with the Lord's guidance in each of our lives.
None of us is meant to be a solo act. We all require other's intercession on our behalves. We must ask God that He gives us those persons who will care for us and will always pray for our lives and our ministries. And may we be those as well who, like the prophet Samuel in his farewell speech to the people of Israel, say::
"God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you."
May we never underestimate the power of one person on his or her knees in intercessory prayer.
And as we seek out that intercession from others for ourselves and become that source of power for our fellow believers, we together will become a mighty army of prayer warriors for the cause of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! And the world will never be the same!
© 2021 Jeff Shirley