Colossians 1:9–14: A Prayer Everyone Needs

January 8, 2015

9For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

A first century letter by the Apostle Paul usually begins with a greeting announcing the recipient and the sender. He then launches into some sort of affirmation of the recipient, in this case verses 3 through 8, covered yesterday.

The third element is often a prayer, in which Paul is likely to bring up subjects that will be developed further as the letter unfolds. While I usually advise small groups to avoid giving advice or working “hidden” agendas through their group prayer, I have no support for Paul on that score. He uses his prayers, embedded in these letters, to drop hints and alert his readers to the concerns that have caused him to write in the first place. The letter to the Colossians is no exception.

So what do we have here, starting at verse 9? I love Paul and his long sentences! The paragraph starts out clearly enough, and then cascades into one dependent clause or phrase after another. I wish I had the software to diagram sentences, because we have a serious task of sorting to do. In lieu of a visual presentation of this passage, let’s try to outline it. The main points are these:

Introduction: Since the day we heard [the news about you], we have not ceased praying for you (:9)
The first petition: “that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will” (:9)
The second petition: “that you may be made strong and be prepared to endure everything” (:11).
The affirmation: God has rescued us out of darkness into the Kingdom.

The introduction refers to the content of the previous paragraph, in which Paul rejoiced over the growth of the church in faith, love, and hope. Word has come to Paul through Epaphras that they have embraced the word of truth, the gospel, and truly comprehended the grace of God. That is saying a lot about this community of faith! And it shows, too, in the way they have demonstrated their love for the wider church, including Paul now imprisoned in Rome.

Based on this backstory, then, Paul begins today’s passage with the result of hearing this good news about them: “For this reason, we have not ceased praying for you. . .” It is clear that Paul spends a significant amount of his time, while in chains in Rome, praying for all those with whom he has shared the faith or whose pastors he has equipped. Imagine the comfort this imparts, to know that a spiritual leader like Paul is praying for you, despite the time and geographic distance. This reminds us sojourners once again—and we should get this, as users of social media—that it isn’t proximity that keeps us in touch, it is the Spirit of God urging us to pray for one another. It begs the question: for whom are you praying regularly? Are you praying for your (former) pastor, the church’s elders, your friends from that church? Even if you consider some of these people your “enemies” or “opponents”—ah, you know what I am going to say—Jesus teaches that we must lift them up before the throne of grace and ask for God’s work to be completed in them. “Pray for your enemies . . .” (Matthew 5:44). Looking ahead, are you praying for God to bring into your life other believers who also need to share the fruits of the gospel with one another? Think about it!

What follows is a beautiful listing of the blessings any Christian can request of God on behalf of another believer:

  1. That you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. That alone is such a good, basic petition, universally needed and appreciated. How many of us really know what God’s will is for us? If we have a general sense of it, how do we sort through the details of God’s will day by day? It’s not so much that we pray for guidance about what color shirt to wear today, but to ask for guidance at particular choice-points so we don’t get lost or off-track. Think of that Siri voice on your GPS while you are driving, and you’ve got an idea of the sort of prompting the Spirit can give throughout the day, when asked and heeded. [Rarely does this come in an audible voice, but one thing we are keen to know is the voice of Jesus as distinct from our own thoughts.] What a gift this would be for our friends (and “enemies”) in the faith, to pray that God would fill them with knowledge of his will!

  2. That you may be made strong and be prepared to endure everything. Every single person is tempted, when looking toward the future, to fear the unknown and its possible tragedies, illnesses, or challenges. This petition simply asks that God would strengthen us inwardly and prepare us to sustain faith, live in joy, and survive whatever is to come. Who would have known, fourteen months ago, that a prayer for me in this regard would help prepare me for the challenge of a Stage III lung cancer diagnosis. While nobody expects something like that to happen, it is possible to be ready. And that readiness comes through the day-by-day routine work of the Spirit to strengthen us and equip us for the Worst Case Scenario. Parents perhaps pray this petition for their children; but here, Paul is modeling a godly prayer that we should offer on behalf of other Christians.

So, today, think about what God is saying to you so far in this passage. If you have time, try to untangle verses 9-14, before we come back to it tomorrow in more detail. Wish I could be sitting at the kitchen table with you, with our Bibles open.



4 Responses to “Colossians 1:9–14: A Prayer Everyone Needs”

  1. Cindy J Says:

    Thank you my friend for food for the soul! 🙂

  2. Mary: I was reading this day’s Bible Study during my lunch break at school. Two thoughts, wow it only took three lessons before I got convicted through your study. The other thought is I am glad we aren’t at the kitchen table because you probably would expect me to do the diagraming in Greek LOL. Blessings, Steven R. Niccolls M.Div Look at the nations and be utterly amazed. For I am doing something in you day that you would not believe, even if I told you. (Hab. 1:5)

  3. Randall Says:

    RevMary, THANK YOU for this series on Col; several of ur posts have already spoken to me. Is it alright if I save this series, to possibly use for teaching in the future? I will give credit to u & blog each time.

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