“I’m so sorry to hear that; I’ll keep you in my prayers”
“Of course I understand how difficult that is, I’ll be praying for you and your family.”
Though impossible to tabulate, I would love to know the statistics on how many people follow up with prayer for the concerns of their family and friends. I know what those stats look like in my own life, and it’s pretty embarrassing. More times than not, I use these phrases as a ‘Christian’ kind of encouragement. An attempt to keep some Jesus in the middle of tough circumstances. But the number of times I actually engage Jesus on someone else’s behalf is staggeringly low.
Which is why this passage in in Colossians 1 swept over me like a refreshing glass of ice cold water. Paul was lifting up fellow believers so earnestly and in so much detail. As I read it, I was envious of the Colosse church. I want someone to pray for me this way!
Here is his prayer. I know it’s a little long, but promise it’s worth the read.
“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. 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. (Colossians 1:9-12)
Wow. What elegance and passion for the people of Christ and for the promotion of the gospel! Can you and I really pray like that? I mean, this is a prayer of Paul….super Christian of the Bible. If we break it down and dig into his prayer, I bet we can find some nuggets to apply to our own prayer life.
Don’t just pray for those who are struggling.
You’ll notice that Paul says he prays continually for the church, not because of their struggles or their persecution, but because he had heard of their growing faith. They were doing well! They were a church known for their love, faith, and hope. And because of these things, the gospel was spreading from them like wild fire.
Sometimes we think that we only need to pray for those in trouble, or those struggling. We obviously do need to be praying for them, but we also need to pray for those who seem like they are in a really good place. We can pray for their protection and thank God that the gospel is spreading because of them.
Pray for Gospel-Centeredness.
All throughout this passage, Paul goes back to the gospel. He prays that their faith and hope are rooted in the gospel. He prays that their actions will further the gospel. Right after this passage, he gives one of my favorite descriptions of the gospel. It’s as if he got so excited writing this letter and thinking about the gospel, that the words just jumped out of his heart. Grab a Bible and check out Colossians 2:13-15. Pretty amazing, right?
As a believer, everything we do should be centered on the gospel. We should live and relate to others in a way that reflects the grace shown to us. We should be actively sharing with others. We should find our identity in the gospel, as saved and redeemed children of God. When you don’t know what to pray for someone, pray that they find hope and peace in the gospel of Jesus Christ and nothing else. If that person doesn’t know Jesus, pray that they would soon find that hope to center their lives around.
Pray that they seek and understand God’s will.
Paul prayed that they be ‘filled with the knowledge of his will’. We find his will by staying in His Word and staying connected with fellow believers. So pray that those habits are present in their life. Pray that their hearts are receptive to what the Lord is telling them through His Word, and that they would choose to walk in His will.
Pray for a life lived worthy of the Lord.
This is such a sweet calling on the Christian life. We all have a deep seeded desire to be worthy. Jesus’ death on the cross made us worthy. Paul isn’t praying that they live a life that earns their salvation. But think about this. Someone does something totally unexpected and gracious to you. They give you an opportunity you most definitely didn’t deserve. How do you respond to that? You want to feel worthy of it. You aren’t trying to earn it, as if they will take it back. But out of thankfulness and gratitude, you want to show that you’re going to use that gift or opportunity in the best way you possibly can.
That’s what Paul is praying here. And so can we. Pray that those around us live a life that reflects the goodness of God, since so much grace and goodness was shown to us.
Pray for strength and endurance.
He ends his prayer with a prayer for strength and endurance. The devil isn’t stupid. He attacks those who are his biggest threat, and this church sounds like it fit the bill. Even in my own life, t the time I doing the most good for the kingdom, other areas of my life came under heavy attack. This is why it’s so important to pray for those around us, that they have the strength and endurance to fight off the devil’s schemes.
I’m going to get really practical. When you’re praying for people who are making great strides for the kingdom, pray for their marriage. The devil doesn’t go for the obvious; he sneaks in through a back door that may be unprotected. A troubled marriage will seep into every other area of life and influence. So pray for their spouse and the strength of their marriage. Pray for their kids. Pray for their mental health and soundness.
As we live in a time where face to face encouragement and connection is limited, prayer for our brothers and sisters is so imperative. So let’s pattern our prayers after Paul, and bathe some of those around us in prayer!