Praying like Paul (Colossians 1:9-12)
I. Paul’s Main Petition (verses 9-10a)
Paul’s main petition for Colossians is that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s in order to please Him with their lives.
First, he prayed that they would be “filled with the knowledge of God’s will.” He wants them to know what God has told them about Himself and His desire for their lives, particularly as revealed in the gospel. The only place that we need to go, and can go, in order to figure out what God desires of us, what He wants for our lives, is the Bible. This knowledge must be obtained “in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” It is wisdom and understanding that enables us to take God’s will as revealed in the Scriptures and make the right application of it in life. It’s “spiritual” because it must be given to us by the Holy Spirit, who is called the “Spirit of wisdom and understanding” (Isaiah 11:2).
Second, he prayed that they would “walk in a manner of the Lord, to please Him all respects.” He did not only want them to have the right knowledge; he wanted them to walk worthy. To live in a way that is “worthy of the Lord” is to show with our lives that the One we profess with our mouths really is as good as we claim He is. Or, as stated in Titus 2:10, it is to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” with our lives. And this worthy life has as its aim to be pleasing to the Lord in all respects. Paul desired that the Lord would look on the Colossians’ life and be pleased with what He saw. Of course, implied in Paul’s prayer for them to be pleasing to the Lord in all respects, is the fact that our lives really can be pleasing to Him. In the gospel, by the grace of God, we are now able to walk in a manner that pleases God.
II. The Character of a God-Pleasing Life (verses 10b-12)
The latter section of Paul’s prayer has to do with the particular characteristics that make a life pleasing to the Lord. They are identified by four different participles in the original language:
First, a life pleases the Lord by bearing fruit. The idea is that it is a life that bears fruit in every kind of good work, across the entire spectrum of the Christian’s life. When the Holy Spirit comes into a person’s life, He brings fruit-bearing life. He takes a dead, barren heart, a heart that bears no fruit at all, and He transforms it, causing it to bear fruit that pleases the Lord. Paul prays that the Colossians’ life would abound in this fruit.
Second, a life pleases the Lord by increasing in the knowledge of God. It might seem strange that Paul would pray again for knowledge when he has already prayed that they would be filled with a knowledge of God’s will, but there seem to be at least two reasons why he includes this request. On the one hand, because it emphasizes the dynamic, and ever-increasing nature of the Christian life. we should be continually pressing on toward knowing God more personally, more deeply, and more completely. On the other hand, because it shows the connection between a fruit-bearing life and a life growing in the knowledge of God. The best way to grow in our experiential knowledge of God is by living on the knowledge we currently possess. Paul prays that the Colossians would be increasing in knowledge.
Third, a life pleases the Lord by being strengthened. John Eadie defines steadfastness as “that tenacity of spirit which still holds on, and perseveres, and waits on God’s timing for reward or dismissal” and having patience is “to not faint under such discouragements, to lose heart, or to despond.” Both the realization that we are in constant need of God’s strength in the normal events of life and of His abundant supply of that strength leads Paul to pray for God to pour out that strength on the Colossians continually.
Fourth, a life pleases the by giving joyful thanks. When we consider that we, who were entirely disqualified from God’s inheritance because of our sin, have now been qualified (i.e. made fit) through faith in Christ, it leads us to joyful thanksgiving to the Father. Paul prays that the Colossians’ lives would abound in this thanksgiving.
- Are you praying for other Christians? Have you prayed for them today? Apart from strategically planning to set apart time to pray, it is very difficult for us to actually make it happen. When and where do you plan to pray for other believers over the next couple of days?
- As you pray, consider following Paul’s pattern and pray for the things above.