04b The Content of a Challenging Prayer

Praying with Paul  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Colossians 1:9–14 ESV
9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Prayer is God’s chosen means for giving us the blessings He promises to give us in Christ Jesus. We need God’s blessings all the time, and as we consistently ask God for these blessings, so He consistently supplies our every need. Paul declares that he prays “always” and unceasingly for the Colossian believers that he has not met face to face (1:3,9). What he means is that since hearing about the birth of this church in response to the gospel preaching of Epaphras, Paul has made it a point to intercede with God on their behalf in his disciplined, regular times of prayer. What does Paul repeatedly pray for on behalf of these Christians, as if the supply must be constantly renewed?
What do the verses tonight tell us about the content of Paul’s prayer? What is it Paul is requesting for the Saints at Colossae?
Paul’s one request for these saints is “that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (1:9). The initial Greek phrase in verse 9, translated “and so” (ESV) or “for this reason” (NIV), indicates that Paul’s petition is directly linked to his thanksgiving in verses 3-8. Thus, after thanking God because the church has understood God’s grace and evidenced spiritual fruit, Paul now prays that they might continue in this same course.
What can we conclude from Paul’s thanks to god in verses 3-8 and his intercession in verse 9?
Paul’s thanks to God and his intercession before God drive us to a very important conclusion: Although we’re typically disposed to pray for people and circumstances only when things have become desperate, Paul regularly prays that the church would continue to grow in knowledge of God and spiritual maturity. Said another way, while our prayers often reflect the urgent needs of the moment, Paul consistently prioritizes those things that are most important and carry eternal weight.
What is the purpose of Paul’s prayers?
Paul states the purpose or aim of his prayer in verse 10: “so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him.” He then illustrates what it means to live a life pleasing to the Lord, using four Greek participles (“bearing fruit,” “increasing,” being “strengthened,” “giving thanks”). These four characteristics are typical (though not exhaustive) marks of the maturing Christian life.
There are four characteristics that Paul gives lists here that are signs of a maturing Christian. What is the first characteristic?
First, Christians please God by “bearing fruit in every good work” (v. 10). This first quality recalls verse 6, where Paul thanks God that the gospel “is bearing fruit and increasing” (emphasis added) in the whole world and also among these dear brothers and sisters in Colossae. We are saved “by grace” and “through faith,” but believers are created anew “in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph. 2:8,10; emphasis added). Fruitfulness isn’t the same thing as gifting or productivity. Rather, true spiritual fruit glorifies God and gives evidence of an ongoing, transformative relationship with Jesus Christ. As Jesus Himself says in John 15:5,8: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
What is the Second characteristic?
Second, we please the Lord by increasing in the knowledge of God (1:10). Paul thanks God that the Colossians “heard it and understood the grace of God in truth” (v. 6), but he’s not content with simply maintaining the status quo. Increasing knowledge of God is inseparably linked to obeying God’s revealed will. We must learn something of that will to obey it; discovery of more of that will is contingent on obeying what we know of it.
What is the third characteristic?
Third, conduct worthy of the Lord is to be achieved through divine empowerment, what Paul later describes as “his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Col. 1:29). The New Testament teaches that God demonstrates His supreme power in various ways. God created all things by His eternal power.3 God clearly demonstrates His supreme power in creation. According to Romans 1:16, the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” God powerfully works signs and wonders by the Holy Spirit and also destroys spiritual strongholds.4 God raised Jesus from the dead and one day will raise us also by His death-conquering power.5 But Colossians 1:11 highlights an essential but often overlooked way that God powerfully works in our lives. Paul asks God to continually strengthen His people “for all endurance and patience.” Endurance and patience are not often extolled in our culture that prizes success, independence, and quick solutions. Nevertheless, these virtues enable the believer to survive with joy when persecuted, to triumph in self-composure and contentment when insulted, to trust God’s all-wise and all-gracious providence when one is suffering like Job.6
What is the fourth characteristic?
Fourth, the Lord Jesus is pleased when Christians joyfully give thanks to the Father (v. 12) because we have received a glorious salvation and inheritance at His hand (1:12-14).7 Our greatest need wasn’t political stability, economic prosperity, education, good health, or entertainment, and so God didn’t send a politician, economist, teacher, physician, or artist. Rather, God knew that our most profound problem was our sin, rebellion, and estrangement from Him; and so He sent us Jesus who came to “save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Believers who grasp that God has rescued us from darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son should respond with joyful gratitude. The apostle’s boundless thanksgiving and earnest intercession for the saints while sitting in a dark, dingy Roman prison makes clear to us that the gospel—not our temporal circumstances—must govern our priorities and practice in prayer.
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