Summary: Paul was writing down details of how he was praying for the young Colossian Church. It is a great guide as to how we should be praying for our fellow believers.
Welcome to week two of our study of St Paul’s letter to the Colossian Church, probably written between 52 and 56 AD – at least that’s when Paul’s letter was written – not my sermon! Last week we considered the ‘gospel [that] is bearing fruit and growing’ (1:6). Those of us who were here took home a seed to help us consider the seeds of the gospel we plant in the lives of other people; and that reminded me that there is a type of bamboo in Asia which grows to amazing heights and at amazing speeds - sometimes as much as 20 metres in six weeks! However, before that growth spurt, the seed lies in the dark beneath the ground for up to 5 years. Those farmers who make a profitable living from the bamboo would have given up long ago and changed crops if they didn’t know that plenty was going on beneath the surface despite the fact that there was no outer, visible sign to encourage their perseverance. Every bit of watering and waiting is worthwhile. No prayer is wasted; e.g. friends, family
This letter was written to the Church at Colosse, or Colossae in Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. Paul writes in his letter that ever since the first day he heard about the new Christian faith of these Colossian men and women, he has ‘not stopped praying for [them]’ (1:9). Verses 9 to 14 that we are looking at this morning are a written record of St. Paul’s regular prayers for a fledgling Church, a group of men and women who had come to a living ‘faith in Christ Jesus’ (1:4)’. Paul has not met them himself, but he has heard reports of their vibrant faith from his friend Epaphras (1:7), and even though he has not met them, he is able to say that ‘we have not stopped praying for you’ (1:9)! Sometimes we find it hard to remember to pray for all the people we do know, but Paul is regular in prayer for this group of believers.
I remember Phil saying his wife Audrey kept lists of people she was praying for. She prayed for different people every day and different people every week.
We’re all different, and I’m not organised anything like dear Audrey, but I am challenged by this question: who am I praying for regularly? Not only that, but I am humbled by the fact that my former Vicar and good friend David Snuggs prays for me. In fact I think he has told me before that he prays for me every day, just as someone used to pray for him every day.
St. Paul is praying that the Colossian Church will grow. He is praying that the men and women of the Church will develop in their quality of character. He is praying that they will be thankful people, and I think Paul’s prayer is an excellent guide as to how we need to be praying for each other, every day, every week.
Paul was praying for the Church to grow:
He was praying for people who were already Christian believers, ‘asking God to fill [them] with the knowledge of his will [God’s will] through all spiritual wisdom and understanding’ (1:9).
Yes, it’s about knowledge, but not just information about God. Paul was not praying that these new believers would simply experience a download of facts, figures and information about God. No, it was much more about praying that they would have a practical knowledge and understanding of the will of God and how to put it into practice. It wasn’t even a prayer that they would know more about God. It was a prayer that they would know God better, rather like our Church mission statement, part of which is to know Jesus and to make Jesus known. The better we know Jesus, the more we will understand the will of God, and the better we will be at making Jesus known; and Paul makes it clear why he wants believers to know the will of God. It’s a wonderfully practical thing because he’s praying this so that they ‘may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way’ (1:10). As our knowledge of God grows – as our relationship with God grows – we become better equipped and more able to please God.
In theory …no, not just in theory, but also in practice, because just as I can choose to do things to please Moira my wife so I can choose to do things to please God. Moira won’t love me any more than she already loves me, and God will not love me any more than he already loves me, but just as you would all want me to live and behave in a pleasing manner towards Moira, my children, to all of you and to this community, so we should be praying that our relationship with God will lead us to live lives that please him. Yes, there will be times when we sin, when we mess up, when we get it wrong, but we are called to grow! We are called to change. We are called to live lives worthy of God, lives that please him in every way: ‘bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God’ (1:10). Each of us is made to do good works! Doing good works does not save us before God, but our deeds overflow out of our growing love for God. As James the brother of Jesus wrote, “I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18).