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Prayer Perspective

*This devotion was shared in a World Outreach Global Prayer Meeting on December 3, 2020 by Andrew M, a World Outreach Missions Partner

 

When I was a young Christian, I really wanted to learn how to pray as I thought that would make me a better Christian. A good sentiment to have, though somewhat misguided in terms of who would be doing the transforming of my life.

So, it was a great joy very early in my walk with Christ that I discovered Watchman Nee’s book, The Prayer Ministry of the Church. The title sounded impressive, so I purchased it as soon as I saw it. And may I say, the book provided great insight. I was so excited to find that the second chapter focused on the Lord’s Prayer – it was not what to pray, but how to pray, focussing on the phrase of Jesus found in Matthew 6:9, Pray then like this.  Here was Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray—not by teaching them a set of phrases to recite but modelling the tone and direction of our prayer.

As I got older, I discovered another good teacher on prayer, the Apostle Paul. And today in this short time before we are led by some dear brothers and sisters in intentional prayer, I thought it would be good to see how he modelled prayer for us. Paul, like those of us gathered together in this call, was a missionary – one who was sent to proclaim the good news. Though he didn’t plant the church in Colossae, he had a heart for the believers there. Here is what he said in the first chapter:

Col 1:9-14

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 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; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

 

What a prayer: full of love, compassion, wisdom and encouragement. Oh, that of all my prayers would indicate that of me for those I pray for!

 

As we pray for one another and for those we minister to, not only today, but in the weeks and months ahead, may we pray with the same kind of love that Paul demonstrated for the Colossians. I’d like to share four thoughts from Paul’s prayer for the Colossian believers.

 

  • Paul wanted them to grow in knowledge and obedience,

    writing, that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him

 

It is the heart’s desire of every believer to please the one who redeemed them. For Paul, understanding God’s will involved recognising how Christ is the fulfilment of God’s desire of redemption; how God’s salvation is open to all people; and how God intends for Christians to live in whatever situation they find themselves. As believers, it is good to be reminded of God’s plans, his purpose for his creation, as sometimes we can forget the Lord saves people because it is pleasing to him. As we walk well, the Lord will save many men and women.

 

  • Paul wanted them to be fruitful,

    bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God

 

I would be a wealthy man for every time that I have heard someone quote to me Eph 2:8, For by grace you have been saved through faith. But it is very rare that they continue through to verse 10, for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  Paul’s desire was that the believers were to be fruitful, and that sentiment is unchanged today.

 

So, we are called to be fruitful. After all, we are connected to Christ, the True Vine. But how do we bear and then measure spiritual fruit? Sometimes I feel that we place an unnecessary burden upon ourselves— how many people have we led to Christ? How many have been baptised over the past twelve months and other such benchmarks. Neither Jesus or Paul placed such targets before the disciples and the early believers—they were called to do good works. The beauty of this is that good works consist of everyday activities: loving your spouse and family; loving your neighbour; feeding the hungry; clothing the naked; serving your community, to name but a few.

 

Can I encourage and commend you for doing good works throughout 2020? On a global scale, this is probably the hardest year since the end of WW2, and good works shine in the darkness.

Paul has the correct perspective. It is believers that do the good works, and it is the Lord that gives growth and new life within the Kingdom. Paul knew that if believers did good works, then God would add to his kingdom through their witness.

 

  • Paul wanted them to thrive,

    being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy;

 

And in doing good works, Paul’s prayer was that the believers would thrive. They would find their strength in the joy of God and in doing so flourish in spite of circumstances. Sometimes I think that James was a sadist when he wrote, count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds (Jas 1:2), but it’s true, we do find our strength to face all circumstances when rejoice in our salvation. We know that our faith is based upon contradictions: when I am weak, he is strong; the first shall be last and the last first: count it all joy in the midst of suffering; and lastly the only righteous man dies on behalf of all the unrighteous.

 

Yet in the midst of tribulation, this ancient prayer is for God’s people to thrive.

 

  • Paul reminded them of who they were,

    has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light

 

This is such a glorious truth!!! Christ has qualified me (and you) for an eternal inheritance. I can’t qualify on my own behalf, but Christ has qualified me and it’s a finished work. Yet I need to be reminded that it is his work, and not mine, that makes me worthy in the eyes of God. What a saviour!

I will end by returning to the beginning. As a new believer, I wanted my prayers to be effective. Over the years I have found that my most effective prayers are those that the Lord has indicated in his word that he will answer. As NT Wright said, ‘It is because of what God has already done that Paul can pray with confidence for what God will do. Having begun a work of grace, God will continue and complete it.’[1]

Paul’s prayer for the Colossians is also my prayer for you, the WO family. Can I encourage you to pray for one another – by name, or by a geographic ministry region. That in this season of turmoil, confusion and fear, may we all thrive in doing good works so that others will know that God has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.

When we pray based upon the Word, we can rest in the promise that the Lord will answer our prayer.

 

[1] Wright, N. T., Colossians and Philemon: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 12 of Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1986.

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