The Christian life is not easy! I made that point to a group of teenagers this weekend at a camp retreat. I hope it sticks with them, because it is true. Following Jesus can often be hard, overwhelming, and frustrating. Paul of course knows this and so as he prays for his brothers as sisters in Colossae he prays for spiritual strength too. His prayers are a model for us too.
We have been mapping Paul’s prayer life for the Colossian church, and part of that prayer includes now this prayer for strength, and particularly prayer for the strength to endure. They had reason to give up, it seemed. Many false teachers had crept into the church and were confusing the congregation with all sorts of perversions of the gospel. Paul wants them to hang on, to endure and to remember what precisely God has already accomplished for them. He writes:
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks1 to the Father, who has qualified you2 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 1:11-14)
There are several key features of this particular part of Paul’s prayer. A quick glance at them each will help us in our prayers.
Paul prays for the Colossians to be strengthened with all God glorious power. This is not a prayer that they would find some internal strength. It’s not a prayer that they would pull themselves up by their boot straps. Paul recognizes that only God’s supernatural power can accomplish what the Colossians need. May part of the reason we don’t pray this way for one another is that we are either unconvinced of God’s “glorious might” or we dont’ know enough about one another’s struggles to see the need for that might. Paul prays for God to empower as only he can. We ought to follow in that manner.
Paul also has a purpose in mind. He’s not just praying for power arbitrarily, but he is praying for God’s power with this expressed purpose in mind: for all endurance and joy. Once again we are reminded that the Christian life is hard. It’s easy to be discouraged in your walk with Jesus, it’s easy to be discouraged by your failures, and it’s tempting to surrender to sin, false belief, or simply give up on Jesus all together. I know I see people weekly who struggle with these realities. And it seems like the more we know about God and the more we know about ourselves the more frustrating our “following” gets. In light of that we ought to pray like Paul does here. We ought to pray for spiritual strength to endure these “valley” moments. Patience too is not easy to come by at times. But since the fruit of the Spirit of God is “patience,” we can pray for his working in us.
Paul, finally, grounds the whole prayer in the reality of the gospel. He states plainly that we ought “with joy” to give thanks to God for his glorious gospel. This gospel has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints. This gospel has freed us from the domain of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of His beloved Son. The ground for all these prayers is the saving work of Jesus Christ. These are special prayers that we pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can’t pray these things for just anyone, for they are reserved for those who know Jesus personally as Lord and Savior. We do have the privilege of praying them for one another, and yet often we do not.
I want to encourage you this week to pray for the members of your congregation. Pray for those who worship with you, who stand alongside you, who suffer and rejoice around you. Pray that they would be strengthen with all God’s power to endure the Christian life. Pray this for your friends, and ask them to pray it for you too. For we all need God’s glorious might.