“We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.
For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”
Our pastor’s wife has begun a study through the book of Colossians with the women of the church. As I have been reading through Colossians over the past couple of weeks I have been reminded how I am often encouraged when reading the epistles by the many concrete examples we are given of how to pray for fellow believers. I am also convicted that far too often my prayers are very shallow. Somehow, when we are in prayer meetings, we often never seem to get past praying for physical needs. And that spills over in my private praying as well. Not that we shouldn’t pray about physical needs, I am not saying that, but when you read what Paul says he is praying for the believers at Colosse, it is tellingly devoid of any mention of Aunt So-and-so’s friend’s cousin’s husband’s minor ailment. Sorry, but I have been in some interesting prayer meetings where it almost seems more like we are really reaching for some small thing to bring up as a request, or even worse, they become very thinly veiled gossip sessions or vehicles for announcements. You know what I mean, way too many details are rehashed from someone's personal situation that many of us did not need to know in the guise of 'praying for them.' Or you might hear a prayer something like this, "Lord, we pray for the Women's meeting next Tuesday at 9 a.m. Childcare will be provided. All ladies are invited to come and encouraged to bring a friend. There will also be refreshments."
Of course when we know of someone who is facing a physical situation we should come together and pray for them and seek God’s face on their behalf, so don’t misunderstand what I am saying. What I am saying is that many times we get so wrapped up in our laundry list of physical things and our own agenda that we do not seem to get beyond that and begin praying for those deeper issues that are of even more importance. Very often we barge into prayer time with our list of wants and needs, real as they are and serious as they may be, but we somehow, in practice though not often in conscious thought, forget that He is not our cosmic genie sitting there waiting to grant our every wish and fulfill our every selfish desire. He is the sovereign Lord God, and when we pray we should be coming with that understanding, respect and reverence, praying for our will to be conformed to His even as we learn to be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let our requests be made known to God, knowing that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
What I have been thinking about recently is that when we pray for those physical needs, wouldn’t it be something if we went on and prayed for that person that they will grow in the knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, that they would walk worthy of the Lord – even in the midst of this current trial – and be fruitful in every good work, increasing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy, giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light? When someone crosses my mind, wouldn’t it be a neat thing to pray for them in that kind of way - rather than getting stuck thinking only of the temporal, but to remember the eternal? When I am tempted to be frustrated with my children, rather than focusing on how they are not doing what I want or making my life easier at the moment, what about if I began to fervently pray that they would grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ and bear fruit as He transforms their hearts. When I pray for my husband, I should be praying in this way for him, too.
These are things I am thinking through. I do not want to be shallow, I want to learn to rejoice in the Lord and to fix my thoughts on the things above. Not that I stop praying for the physical needs I am made aware of, but that I do so in a more effective, fervent, eternal way, focusing more on Christ and His glory. I want there to be more of Him and less of me in my prayers.