|Praying for One Another (Col 1:9-14)|
|Written by Bruce Button|
|Wednesday, 20 April 2011 20:28|
After considering a possible switch to Romans, I have decided to continue with my expositions on Colossians. This week I look at Colossians 1:9-14, which deals with the vital subject of praying for one another.
In these verses Paul describes his own prayers for the believers at Colosse, and by so doing he helps us to understand how and why we need to pray for one another. We can gain much insight into his thinking by relating these verses to Ephesians chapter 6. There, after explaining that we are engaged in a battle against cosmic powers, Paul instructs us to "keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints" (Eph 6:18, ESV).
It is important for us to understand that the devil is indeed a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. And just as the lions of the bushveld have no mercy on young, injured or weak zebras, so the devil has no mercy on us when we are pressurized or weak. Times of conflict at work, times of illness, times of financial hardship, times of spiritual weakness, these are all occasions when the lion roars all the more fiercely, when he seeks to exploit our vulnerability and devour us. Only the supernatural power of God can protect us and one of the means that God has ordained for our protection in these times is the prayers of our fellow believers. And just as we need the prayers of our brothers and sisters, so they also need our prayers. How then can we pray meaningfully for one another?
This text draws our attention to two ways in which we need to pray for one another: we need, firstly, to pray for spiritual perception and secondly for supernatural power.
1. Pray for Spiritual Perception
In verses 9 to 10 Paul prays for the Colossians that they will be "filled with the knowledge of [God's] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 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."
When I am caught up in challenging circumstances I seem always to find myself praying for wisdom. So often it seems so hard to know what is the right response to the circumstances. I suspect the same is true for all of us. How does the wife of an unbelieving husband respond when her husband allows her only to attend one church activity per week? Should a Christian seek another job when his boss and colleagues are hostile due to his Christian faithfulness? How do parents gently and lovingly guide their teenager who has become rebellious?
Notice that Paul prays for spiritual wisdom and understanding so that the believers may "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work." The devil will have scored a victory if he can tempt us to behave in a way that spoils our testimony, that displeases and dishonours God. The first thing that we need if we are to resist this temptation is spiritual wisdom and understanding; hence Paul prays for God to give just that understanding.
We can easily apply this to our own prayer lives. As we pray for our brothers and sisters, let's think about their circumstances, think about their struggles and think about the special wisdom and insight which they need from the Lord. Let us then intercede on their behalf, asking God to given them what they require. As we do so we may be encouraged by the promise that God gives [wisdom] generously to all (James 1:5).
2. Pray for Supernatural Power
A poor injured zebra has no hope against a ravening lion; nor does a struggling Christian have any hope against the devil. So Paul prays that the Colossians may be "strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father" (Col 1:11-12).
At times we and our brothers and sisters are called upon to endure seemingly impossible pressures. A conflict-filled marriage; false accusations because we refuse to share in the corrupt practices of our colleagues; unfair dismissals and consequent inability to provide for our families; kidnapping and torture by Militant muslims; the relentless pressure of a demanding work situation. How can we stand when we are pressed far beyond our ability to endure? Once again, the answer is found in the prayers of our brothers and sisters.
The application again is obvious. When we feel we are being tested beyond what we can endure let us ask for prayer. When our beloved fellow Christians are tempted to despair and compromise let us renew our prayers for them, praying specifically that God will "strengthen them with all power, according to his glorious might". And let us not forget our brothers and sisters in persecuted countries.
3. The Source of our Protection
Paul ends the account of his prayer by drawing attention to the "Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered 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" (Col 1:12-14).
Effective prayer is always rooted in a conviction of God's goodness and love. What greater proof is there of God's love than the work of salvation by which he has rescued us from the power of the devil, placed us in the loving care of his Son, and given us an eternal inheritance? When we pray for one another, let this be the assurance which gives us hope and boldness in our prayers. If God has done the hard thing - he reconciled us to himself when we were his enemies - how much more will he do what is easy - give wisdom and strength to his children (cf. Rom 5:9-10)? When we pray we are not trying to persuade God against his will to help us; we are asking him, on the basis of his proven love, to take his own work of salvation one step further.
I do pray that you will be encouraged to pray more for your brothers and sisters - and to pray more joyfully, more thankfully and more hopefully.
The Lord bless you and keep you and make his face to shine upon you.
For articles of spiritual interest, see www.sgts.org.