Praying Through the Epistle to the Colossians
Prayer, as all who have prayed have experienced, can turn to repetition and mindless utterances if we’re not careful. How often have we drifted in and out of engaged thought and consciously seeking God on behalf of the need of others and our own selves? How often have we just repeated, as Donald Whitney writes, “the same old things about the same old things”?
That’s why I love Whitney’s book Praying the Bible. In that book, Donald Whitney shows us how to simply pray through Scripture, line-by-line. We take God’s Word written to us, and we see it like a conversation. In the Bible, God is speaking to us, and we reply back to him in response. Any of us can (and should) do that with any portion of Scripture, but one that I often return to time and again is the book of Colossians.
Paul’s letter to the Colossians was written to proclaim the absolute Lordship of Christ over all creation and over the church. Christ rules and reigns over all things (Colossians 1:16–17) and his redemption has restored us (believers in Christ) to him and calls us to live under his good Lordship (Colossians 1:18–23). Throughout the letter, while making these themes clear, Paul shows his concern for the church at Colossae, and gives us plenty of content for our prayers to God.
PRAY PAUL’S PRAYERS
First, Colossians gives us model prayers that should influence how we pray:
Pray for the church (and pray for specific believers by name) to grow in godliness:
- 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, 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; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:9–14)
Pray for missionaries and for our evangelism to our neighbors:
- At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. (Colossians 4:3–4)
Pray, with Epaphras, for our maturity in Christ:
- Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. (Colossians 4:12)
PRAY PAUL’S INSTRUCTIONS AND EXAMPLES FOR THE CHURCH
In addition to the specific model prayers in the book of Colossians, we should see the rest of the book as containing content for our prayers as well. Paul’s instructions to the church give a good starting point. Anytime we read commands or exhortations in Scripture, we should see those as specific needs that we should pray for one another in the Body, that God would enable us and help us to carry out those duties.
Pray that our goal would be that all of us would be mature in Christ:
- Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1:28–29)
Pray that we would walk in Christ:
- Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6–7)
Pray that we would be heavenly-minded, and not focused on earthly things:
- If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1–4)
Pray that we would live in light of who we are in Christ:
- Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:9–14)
Pray for our marriages and families:
- Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. (Colossians 3:18–21)
Pray for our work, that even that would be an act of worship:
- Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23–24)
Pray that we would pray:
- Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)
PRAY THROUGH THE GOSPEL AND DOCTRINE SECTIONS:
Finally, not only the commands, but even the doctrine sections give us direction for how we should pray. Doctrine tells us what we should believe. We need to pray these things for believers and nonbelievers, asking God to help us believe the truth and live in light of the truth.
Pray that we would acknowledge and submit to the Lordship of Christ:
- And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (Colossians 1:18)
Pray that we would endure in the faith in response to the gospel:
- And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:21–23)
Pray that we would all reach the full assurance in the gospel and that we would not be swayed by false teachings:
- For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. (Colossians 2:1–4)
Pray for nonbelievers to see clearly what Christ has done on the cross for all who would believe:
- And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13–14)
Bert Watts has served since December 2016 as the Senior Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since 2012.
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