Sunday, March 25, 2018

Pray the Change (Part Two)


photo source: Wikicommons
“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you.”

If I were to ever receive a letter from the Apostle Paul, informing me that he and his co-workers were constantly praying for me, I’d be pretty encouraged. Actually, I’m really encouraged, touched, and grateful when anybody tells me that they’ve been praying for me. When I was in college, letters from my grandparents often closed with: “we pray for you daily”, which always warmed my heart.

In Colossians 1:9-14, Paul goes beyond simply telling people that he’s praying for them, and gives us a window into what exactly he’s praying on their behalf. (Paul does the same thing for the church in Ephesus, which I’ve written about here.)

Given that Paul writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it’s always fascinating to consider what the Spirit is saying is important for a leader like Paul to pray about:
“We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 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, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 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. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Now, let’s just slow down and unpack this short prayer a bit.

Paul begins with praying that the Colossians (and us) will be filled with the “knowledge of his will”. Typically, we 21st century people have a tendency to read the phrase “God’s will” and immediately translate it to mean “vocation/calling”. We’re kinda weird that way — always equating God’s will with work, rather than God’s will for our character as disciples of Jesus.

Read the whole phrase again: “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way”. God’s will = living a life worthy of Him. Of course, “pleasing Him in every way” will have practical implications for our vocation, ethics, morality, etc., but that’s the out-working of our calling, not the calling itself.

Paul then gives us some immediate examples of what that will look like:
  • “bearing fruit in every good work,
  • “growing in the knowledge of God,
  • “being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,
  • “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.”
That’s a fascinating list of spiritual outcomes that qualify as living a life worthy of God, that pleases Him in every way:
  • Good works
    • Thoughts and prayers should always be coupled with action.
  • Growing in knowledge
    • Some people may advocate for a theology-lite approach to their faith, but that’s not what Paul says is pleasing to God.
  • Strengthened by His power so we can be patient and have spiritual endurance
    • It’s tempting to only read “strengthened by His power” and assume it’s about us becoming spiritual giants, but in reality, it’s about the spiritual strength we need to patiently endure whatever life throws at us.
  • Having a continual sense of awe, wonder, and thankfulness
    • The “joy of our salvation” isn’t just a poetic phrase from the Psalms — the simple fact that we’re saved, forgiven, and accepted by God should be a source of perpetual joy.
And then, to underline his point, Paul concludes his short prayer with a truly inspiring reminder:
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
In this brief summation to his prayer, Paul — and the Holy Spirit — reminds us of our true identity as a company of the redeemed and forgiven.

Try praying that over yourself and your loved ones, and see what kind of difference prayer makes!

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