Praying for One Another: Wisdom

Praying manWhat we know should affect how we live! It often doesn’t, but it should. If I “know” a truck is speeding down the street I don’t step off the curb. We operate this way regularly. It is Paul’s prayers for the Colossians that they would operate this way in spiritual matters too: action fueled by knowledge. So he prays for the Colossians to be controlled by the knowledge of God’s will. This is a model for how we ought to pray for one another too.

It is frustrating, as a pastor, to see week in and week out the same people struggling with the same sins. I want victory for them. I want them to be transformed by the renewing of their mind and the power of the Spirit of God. I want them to put to death whatever is earthly in them. But each week it seems the same issues present themselves. I want better for my friends and my church. Of course I want better for me too, and perhaps that’s really why I get so frustrated. Every time I see them struggling with the same sins it’s a reminder that I am too. I want victory for myself. I want to be transformed. I want to put to death sin in me. What is the solution to our mutual dilemma?

The answer is not simply to know more information. For the longest time I thought good discipleship consisted merely in the delineating of doctrines. It’s naive to think if we just fill our minds with information we can be changed. Paul’s prayer for the Colossians is a model of what I need to pray for my church and what I need them to pray for me. He prays not merely for wisdom but for controlling knowledge of the will of God for the purpose of action. He writes:

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. (Colossians 1:9-10)

Paul’s prayer is for action fueled by knowledge; both knowledge of the will of God and action upon it are necessary.

Paul does not cease to pray for that they Colossians would be “filled” with the knowledge. That’s a key word in this verse: filled. The Greek word means to be completely filled up or totally controlled. John MacArthur notes a number of examples where the word demonstrates this idea.

The disciples hearts were filled with sorrow when Jesus told them of His departure (John 16:6). Luke 5:26 tells us the crowd was filled with fear after Jesus healed the paralytic. The scribes and Pharisees were filled with rage after Jesus healed on the Sabbath (Luke 6:11). The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:31), while Stephen was full of faith (Acts 6:5). In each case they were totally under the control of what filled them. (Colossians, 28)

The idea, then, in Paul’s prayer for the Colossians is that they would be totally controlled by the knowledge of God’s will. That is something that obviously requires the Spirit of God to work in us. No Christian is perfectly filled by the knowledge of God’s will. We need divine intervention if we are to get to that place. I need to pray this for my people instead of getting frustrated with them. And I need them to pray this for me, so that they won’t get frustrated with their pastor either. The hope is that as we pray God will work in us “to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

But it is not merely knowledge. It is knowledge that leads to action. That is Paul’s ultimate concern. He prays that they will be “filled” with this knowledge “so that” they can walk in it. The “so that” identifies a subordinate relationship to the “knowing” in order to establish a purpose. We are to “know” the will of God in order that we can obey it.

The Bible uses “Walk” as a common term to describe one’s pattern of daily living. In this case Paul’s prayer is that we would “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.” That’s a tall order. It’s a common feature of Paul’s prayers for the church, however. He prays it for the Thessalonians (2:12), the Ephesians (4:1), and the Philippians (1:27). Paul is praying for their sanctification in these cases. He is praying for their obedience fueled by the knowledge of God’s will. This is what we should pray for one another.

It is easy to look at the church and pronounce it full of hypocrites. We all know this is true. And, if we are honest, we must often throw ourselves under that umbrella. But rather than wring our hands, point our fingers, or surrender we can pray for one another. Growth does not come easy, and it does not come apart from fellow church members who care about us and help us along the way. Pray for one another, friends. Pray that we would each grow in the knowledge of God’s will in order that we could live by it. Knowledge should affect life, where it doesn’t we need to pray and invite people to pray for us.

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