Broadening the Horizon of Our Prayers

In my last post, I mentioned Paul’s account of his prayer for the Colossian believers, an account found in chapter one of the letter that bears their name. I’d like to look at that passage once more, but for a somewhat different purpose. Here it is again in full:

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

When studying this passage a couple of years ago, I was struck by the content of Paul’s petition. What I mean is that it’s significantly different from the commonly heard prayer for help in dealing with a sickness, a problem at work, or an upcoming test–all prayers that I’ve heard often enough, including from my own lips. Please understand me, it’s not that I think we shouldn’t offer those kinds of prayers to God. That Jesus expressly included “give us our daily bread” in his own tutorial on prayer should disabuse us of the notion that prayers for common, everyday needs and struggles are somehow inappropriate.

But what I am saying is that Paul’s words should help to broaden our prayer horizon, so to speak. Here the apostle demonstrates a regular practice (“we have not stopped praying…and asking God”) of praying for genuine spiritual growth, growth that that includes the fruit of good works, increasing in the knowledge of God, empowerment for endurance and patience, and the joyful expression of thanks.

How often do you and I pray for those things?

The passage is all the more challenging when we realize that Paul isn’t referring to prayers that he’s offered for this growth to occur in his own life (though presumably he often did). Rather, he’s praying such prayers for people he’s never even met personally (see 2:1)!

This leads me to a few questions. If Paul saw fit to pray regularly for the Colossians, how much more should we pray for those people we worship with every week? What kind of powerful, gracious change do you think we’d see at The Crossing if those of us involved in this community were to pray regularly for the spiritual growth of one another? Who can you personally pray for in the church along these lines (people in your small group, men’s or women’s group, your family, church staff, friends, etc.)? And finally, following Paul, who can you pray for in the larger body of Christ, asking that they would grow in a life worthy of and pleasing to the Lord?

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