How We Can Pray for Each Other

9 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 May you be 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. (Colossians 1:9-14)

As Paul progresses through his letter to the Colossians, in verse 9 he begins praying for them in really special ways. Paul had not been to Colossae. He had no first hand experience with the church people there. Epaphras was the one who had been with them and even begun the church in Colossae. But even without direct contact between Paul and the Christians in Colossae, Paul could still, in a variety of ways, be involved with them in their spiritual walk. 

He was involved with them in the sense that he had taught and ministered directly to Epaphras, who then took what he had learned to the church at Colossae. Paul was involved with them in that he wrote them this letter of instruction and encouragement. But another way Paul was involved with them, a significant way, was through prayer.

Paul did not have to be in their presence in order to be effective in their lives, he could be a great distance away and sincerely, consistently, with great labor, pray for them. He could go before the God of all creation in prayer, lift them up, their needs, their concerns, their difficulties in prayer.

You have people in your life, right now, that you cannot be with. Maybe you are separated by great distance. Maybe they are not so far away but circumstances have nonetheless kept you apart. Maybe a loved one, a friend or a neighbor who, frankly, does not want you around. You want to be in their life, a close friend or family member, but that desire is not reciprocal, they don’t want you around. In any of these instances, we can still be involved, intimately so through prayer.

Prayer is a powerful means of helping others, and Paul took prayer very seriously. It was his way of reaching out to those who were not near him or accessible to him in any other way. He knew that God was accessible to him and they were accessible to God, so prayer linked them together no matter where he was or where they were.

Paul’s prayer life is indicative of his belief, correct belief, that God controls and is involved in the events of life. And if God is in control and involved in the events of life then He, God, is the one to whom we should go with requests and petitions. That was Paul’s belief.

For instance, when Paul wanted to go and visit the Roman church but could not find a way to do so, what did he do? He prayed…

10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you (Romans 1:10-11)

He longed to see them and so he prayed that the God who was able to work that out may work it out.

Or how about when Paul had a longing, a deep desire in his heart for the salvation of men and women, what did he do? He prayed that they be saved.

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. (Romans 10:1)

Paul witnessed, yes, he wrote letters explaining the gospel, yes, he preached, yes, but always in a spirit of prayer. Why? Because it is God who saves. Paul knew that God could effect salvation in people’s lives.

With regard to frequency of prayer, Paul put prayer at the top of his list. Prayer for him, apparently, was not an occasional effort, it was instead a continuous one.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12)

Paul also knew that not only was he to be one who prayed for others, but he was quick to realize that he was one in need of prayer as well. He knew his weaknesses, he in his writings was very upfront and honest about them, and knowing his weaknesses, he asked others to lift him up in prayer.

30 I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, (Romans 15:30-31)

The beauty of a prayerful person is that it reveals something about what that person believes about God, himself, and other people. If we are in a constant state of prayer as Paul said in Romans 12:12, “be constant in prayer,” or like he repeats in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing,” if we are there in our prayer life then we will, or should, in our hearts and minds, have a constant awareness of God’s presence in all things. 

I don’t believe that being constant in prayer means head bowed and eyes closed all the time. But in a constant state of seeing God in all things, acknowledging His activity in and around us, relying on Him for our help, our needs, our weaknesses. It is seeing a need around us and almost instinctively praying for the one in need. Seeing a hurt and asking for God’s special comfort and peace for a brother or sister in Christ. Feeling the burden of fear or worry and quickly going to the Lord for help in prayer. Seeing the beauty of a flower, a sunset, awesome cloud formations, a newborn child, a majestic mountain, or a flowing stream, and thanking God, praising Him for such creation. It is feeling the conviction of sin and confessing to God right away through prayer while recalling His grace and thanking Him for His grace in prayer. These are ways in which we can live in a state of prayer before our Lord. He really is active and working all around us and in us. So He is the one we acknowledge, make requests, thank, and praise. Constant prayer helps us with this.

Also, it helps us to love other people as we bring others before God in prayer, lift them up in our words to God. It helps us to be in one another’s lives when we can’t be there physically, and even if we can be. God and our prayer life is not bound by geography. It reminds me of the faith of the Centurion who had great faith in Christ and His ability to heal with a word from a great distance.

6 “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” 7 And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8 But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. (Matthew 8:6-8)

How many times have you or have I felt the weight of burden for someone who is ill or struggling in some way and we want to be there but we simply can’t be there? We can’t be everywhere, right? But we can pray, we can be there in spirit, we can be before God and God is there. 

Paul had not been with the Christians in Colossae, but that did not stop him from being in their lives through prayer.

We cannot always go and be with one another, for many reasons. But what an incredible truth that we can be united with each other through prayer.

15% to 18% of our church body is out today at Joni and Friends Family Retreat, either serving as short-term missionaries or as families being ministered to. They are away from us, our brothers and sisters in Christ, but through prayer, they are near.

What is it like for you when you hear someone say, “I am praying for you?” Internally or maybe out loud we can have a variety of responses. Maybe we think, “Really?” with an attitude of doubt. Or perhaps we think to ourselves, “I wonder what you are praying exactly.” Maybe depending on who has said this, we may be overwhelmed by comfort knowing that others are lifting their voices to the Lord on our behalf.

When Paul let the Christians in Colossae know that he was praying for them, he got very specific with how he was praying. And I’ve got to tell you, there is a sense in which I am both encouraged by how he prayed and convicted by how he prayed for even these he did not personally know. And I’ll say, I hope there are people praying for me specifically in this way that Paul was praying for the people of Colossae!

Listen again to how he prayed, and as I read this prayer think of this: “Would I appreciate others praying these very things for me today?”

9 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 May you be 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. (Colossians 1:9-14)

Here’s a summary of Paul’s prayer:
He prays constantly
He prays that they be filled with the knowledge of His will
He prays that they have all spiritual wisdom and understanding
He prays that they may live a life worthy of the Lord
He prays that they will live in a way that is pleasing to God
He prays that they will bear fruit through their good works
He prays that their strength will be from God
He prays that they will have endurance, patience, and joy
He thanks God for their inheritance
He recalls their past lostness and their now glorious place in His kingdom
He is thankful for their redemption and the forgiveness of sin

Which of those do you need? Do you wonder if someone is praying for you in these ways? Are we praying for others in these ways?

One thing I love about these verses is that sometimes I don’t know how to pray for someone, and if that is the case, I can still pray significantly by praying for these things, these universal, glorious things that each of us need and should greatly desire!

So this morning let’s look at verse 9 and see where Paul begins with his prayer.

9 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, (Colossians 1:9)

He starts off in a big way. After reminding them that his prayer life is continuous and that it includes them, and that it began as soon as he heard of their faith through Christ, he goes on to say that he is asking that they “may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

Do you need direction in life? Do you wonder, at times, “What should I be doing right now?” Do you struggle with how to respond to another person in a difficult matter? We have many decisions to make, lots of options. What exactly does God want for me and you? What is His will for us? How do we learn of and have knowledge of His will?

We know God’s will, simply put, through His Word given us in the Bible. His revealed will is right here in His Word. He gives us direction for life, He shows us how to relate to others, how to make decisions, how to glorify Him. In the Bible that He has given us, He tells us what pleases Him and what does not please Him. All of these things are the knowledge of His will for us. Paul prays that we will be filled with this knowledge. This is to be filled with, in our minds, biblical knowledge.

Now, what does the Bible say about knowledge alone?

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. (1 Corinthians 8:1)

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2)

6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, (Proverbs 2:6-7)

We see in the Bible that knowledge is always combined with other important features, like love and wisdom. Knowledge without love can be like a weapon, can lead to arrogance, being puffed up, proud. Knowledge without wisdom and understanding can lead to great foolishness in that it is information without an ability to use it in a godly way.

That is what I think Paul is getting at here. He prays that they “may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” He wants them to have knowledge that comes from God, but not just that, but also wisdom to apply it, understanding to use it.

You know what is scary to me? People who have a head full of knowledge but not a clue how to use it rightly. Some of the most intelligent people I know are sometimes those who seem not to have any idea as to what to do with that knowledge. And I am talking about people and Bible knowledge.

And I am not just speaking about “those people” here. I have been praying this week that God would give me wisdom in some areas that I have been really struggling with regarding applying God’s Word. Praying for wisdom and understanding.

We have all of these words, but what do we do with them? What do they look like in action, how do they look in my life, in your life? Paul so wants for his readers, his brothers and sisters in Christ, to be able to take the knowledge and have it saturate their lives, their walk, in whatever situation they would face or whomever they are around for God’s glory.

And so I think for us, we too can pray for each other, pray for ourselves, pray that we will be filled with knowledge, yes, but also that we will have wisdom and understanding in applying that knowledge day to day, moment by moment as we live this Christian life out in our world.

So as Paul writes, he does so in prayer that what he writes will not just be heard, but also understood and applied.

As you read your Bible this week, pray that you will be wise in what you do with what you have read.

I have a friend who told me recently that he goes through the entire New Testament two or three times every week, memorizing large portions of it. He has done this for many, many years. He has a huge amount of Bible knowledge, very disciplined in his reading and memorization. But what he confessed to me, with tears in his eyes, is that for all these years, he has done this in order to be able to argue with people around him about their sins and shortcomings. His knowledge was a tool to gain an upper hand, to win a fight, to put others in their place. His reading was not to be taken in a spirit of wisdom and understanding so that God would change his heart and mind. 

What are we doing with what we are learning?

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, (Colossians 1:9)