9 So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.
11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy,[c] 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.
– Colossians 1:9-12 (NLT)
Some time back I put up a post talking about a recent struggle I have had with prayer. I’m not sure if anyone reading this got much out of it, but it was a good thing for me to write it down because it helped me to organize my thoughts and really think about where my prayer life is, and what needs to happen to make it improve. An honest assessment would be that it wasn’t really anywhere, and anything would have been an improvement.
Since I posted that I have had the opportunity to do some really good reading. Vertical Church by james MacDonald has frankly blown my mind, and now I am reading Radical by David Platt, and that has reduced the rest of it to dust.
In Vertical, I have had to come face to face with how I am living some aspects of my life, and I am finding that most of them are horizontal. What can I get, and how do things affect my life. Glory for God is often nothing but an accidental result of some of the things that I have done because either I was doing it out of the wrong heart, or because I went through the motions, but God used it for someone else. It was all about me. Vertical has opened my eyes to the need for change in a lot of areas, but the biggest has been prayer.
Radical has been showing me just how much of my thinking has been molded by tradition rather than following the Word of God. It has been teaching me to think more about why I am doing some of the things I do. Sometimes the things I would do were not because the thinking was way off base, but because I was not thinking about it at all! Sometimes the things might have been wrong because I had been following the preferences of someone else rather than reading what the Bible had to say and really looking at it and taking it for what it actually says. Yeah, radical, I know!
So, between that and the time I spent going through Ecclesiastes in my own quiet times, I have really come to see the importance of focusing on what matters instead of chasing wind all the time. Sometimes the wind is full of good things, but they are not the best things. I want to focus on the best things that God has intended for my life and for my family by extension. It has lead to some tough choices, and probably more to come, but I am already sensing the Spirit’s reassurance that I’m on the right path.
When I finished Ecclesiastes, I was wondering where to go next to read. I came across a video posted by one of my Facebook friends that was promoting a new sermon series at their church called “Next Step Now: A Study of Colossians.” I thought, “Well, I’m not leaving my church, but I can study Colossians too!” So I began, and what does God put in front of me right away? Prayer.
I spent about a week going through the four verses at the top of this post. I expected it to go a lot faster, but it seemed like God just kept drawing me back to this over and over. I also had some conversations with some friends and they shared a new focus on prayer in their lives. I was also getting hit by people at church, articles that I subscribe to by e-mail, and a couple of blog posts I read as well – all of them were bringing up prayer. I’m not exactly the sharpest cheddar in the dairy case, but I could pick up on the importance of really looking at what God was putting in front of me, and how I should be putting it to practice in my life.
So, here are the things I got from my study in Colossians. The primary focus was on praying for others. Something I have not been good about doing, and something that I had just had a bad experience with. Again, I think God took me through that to bring me to this.
- Paul prayed for people he never even met – In my prep for studying this book I found that many people believe Paul never even made it to Colosse, but that didn’t stop him from praying for these people. He felt a need to do it, and it brought him joy to do so.
- Paul followed up on the Colossians (9) – How many times have I said that I would pray for someone, but never go back to check on them? In verse 9 Paul mentions first hearing of them, and that leads me to think that he went on to inquire what was going on with them and that would factor into his prayers for them.
- Paul continually prayed for them (9) – This was not like most of the prayers I would give for people. It was not a one-time, “There, I did it!” kind of thing. He continued to pray and bring them before God over and over again.
- He prayed for God to give them understanding of His will at work in their lives (9) – This one really spoke to me. It was not a prayer for God to change their circumstances, and I am sure that some of them were not good. It was not a prayer to understand God, and we cannot. It was for God to give them an understanding of what He was doing in their lives at that moment to grow them or to rebuke them or to encourage them. I know that has never been in my prayers for people, and I now see how important that is!
- He prayed for them to have wisdom to act (9) – When you understand where you are and what is being done around you, it is a little easier to figure out what you should do to respond to it, but he was also praying for God to give them His wisdom for their lives.
- He told the people why he was praying for them (10) – Sometimes letting someone know that you are praying for them will give them the strength to face another day. Telling them why you are praying lets them really see that you are invested in their lives – that you really care!
- He prayed for them to have strength, power, patience, and endurance (11) – The days ahead for the people we pray for may be long, dark, and taxing. They need us to intercede and pray for God to really lift them up when they feel like they can’t go on.
- He prayed that they would be filled with joy (11) – I pray for people to have peace, or comfort, or strength to endure, but I don’t think I have ever really prayed for someone to have joy. I’m sure I haven’t done it consciously or repeatedly – Paul did!
- He thanked God for what He was doing in their lives (12) – Giving the credit to God and not himself for his teaching or to the people for their personal effort. He was showing them how to keep the Vertical perspective of seeing that all that happens in our lives flows through God’s hands.
As a result of these verses I have developed a prayer journal that I am now trying to keep. The habit is not there yet, but I am working on it. I need this to become a focus, and I am committing to it for my life. It is another step in my relationship with God, and I know that it is an important one – one that is already bearing fruit. My mind is being drawn to the people in my journal and to God as He works in their lives, and that leaves a lot less time for me to think about myself.
God has a purpose for my life. I’m not exactly sure what it might be yet, but I know He does. One thing I do know is that He wants me to be purposeful – to live a life with purpose, to think with purpose, and to do things with purpose. Prayer is a very purposeful thing to be sure.
As I work on this aspect of my life, I would appreciate your prayers, and if you would like to message me and ask me to pray for something in your life, I would like to do that too. Your comments as always are appreciated.
Get out there and live! Not only on purpose, but with purpose!
In His Grip,