I recently had the opportunity to visit a pastor friend of mine in Melbourne, Australia. Once there I had the opportunity to preach and teach and be among the members of the church there. I learned much about them and I am now able to pray very specifically for them and their leadership. Before I made the journey, I very much wanted to pray for this church, yet I knew very little about them in terms of specifics. When thinking about this church and my desire to pray for them, I remembered the Apostle Paul praying for a church he had never been to and people he had never met in the town of Colossae.
Put yourself in Paul’s shoes for a moment. He is under house arrest in Rome waiting for Nero to hear his case and not sure of what the future holds (He would be acquitted). He is busy writing and receiving visitors; when he gets a very unexpected visit by Epaphras, the pastor of a church in Colossae. This is a town that you will not find listed in Paul’s journeys in Acts, for the apostle Paul had never been there (Col 2:1). Paul is greatly encouraged by his report. The gospel is going forth around the Gentile world (Col 1:6) despite the Apostle to the Gentiles being imprisoned (Col 4:3). After hearing about this young church, Paul writes the epistle of Colossians. Paul begins this epistle by telling these believers that he is giving thanks to God for them. He has heard of their faith in Christ, their love for each other, and their hope in their eternal future (Col 1:3-6).
Paul then continues by telling them that he and Timothy are unceasing in their prayer for them. He then goes on to tell them exactly what he is praying. It is important to remember that Paul has never met these believers, and yet he still prays for them. This prayer was of great help to me in praying for believers I did not know. By using this prayer of Paul as a model, my hope is to give you specific ways that you too can pray for believers that you don’t know very well.
Pray That They Would Grow in the Knowledge of God’s Will (1:9)
Paul had heard of these believers’ faith in God, love for each other, and their hope in Christ. He prayed that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. To be filled is to be dominated by, or controlled by something else. Paul is praying that these believers would be dominated by their ever increasing knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and understanding. Paul uses this same expression in Ephesians 5:18 when he tells the Ephesian believers to be filled with the Spirit. They were to be dominated and controlled by the Holy Spirit instead of being dominated and controlled by alcohol.
To live a life controlled controlled by the will of God means that one knows the will of God. One can only know the will of God by knowing the word of God. To quote Howard Hendricks in his book, Living By the Book, “90% of the will of God is found from the neck up.” A person cannot live out what they do not know. Our life in Christ is based on our knowledge of God’s will.
Let’s look at some of what the Bible says about God’s will. God’s word tells us that it is His will for our salvation (1 Tim 2:1-4), our sanctification (1Thess. 5), it is His will that we are to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18), etc…all things that we can know and understand from the Scriptures.
When you are praying for believers that you don’t really know that well, then this passage is a good starting point. Pray that they would grow in their knowledge of God’s will. Pray that they would read and know God’s Word. Through the Scriptures, a person can know how God expects them to live.
Pray That They Live a Life Pleasing to God (1:10-14)
Paul continues in verses 10-14, giving the 2nd part of his prayer for these believers whom he has never met. He tells them (1:10) that he is praying that they walk worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in all things. A person’s “walk” is how a person lives his/her life before God. Paul then continues by giving four qualities describing what a life pleasing to the Lord should look like. Pray for believers you don’t know by asking God to help them live a life pleasing to Him.
1.Please God By Bearing Fruit in Every Good Work (1:10)
A life pleasing to God is one that is yielding a harvest of right living. We were created for good works (Eph 2:10), so live out these good works! The good works that we are to live out are based on our obedience to the word of God. We love God, we love and serve the Body of Christ, we evangelize the lost, all for the glory of God.
2.Please God By Growing In Their Knowledge of God (1:10)
Paul is talking here about extensive growth in the knowledge of God. The difference here from Col 1:10 is that Paul is speaking about the nature of God and not merely knowing His will. Paul desires these believers to grow in their knowledge of who God is and what He has done. Another way of saying this is to ask that they grow in their knowledge of God’s character,His works, and His commands. Our faith in Christ grows ever more strong as we learn more and more about God’s faithfulness, His holiness, His love, His creation, His sacrifice, His provision, and His return, to name but a few.
3.Please God By Enduring trials with Joy (1:11)
Paul says that living a life pleasing to the Lord means that one endures trials from his/her circumstances or from hard people, with joy. Believers are not able to do this in their own strength. They must be “strengthened with all power,” by God according to His “glorious might.” The strength to make it through another day dealing with hostile people in a hostile world comes only from God. The only way that this takes place is for a believer to live a life of obedience to the will of God, being filled with the Spirit, seeking to please Christ.
4.Please God By Giving Thanks to Him (1:12-14)
Paul continues in these next few verses by telling these believers that living a life worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him, involves giving Him thanks for all that He has done. His love and grace towards us are without measure. Paul says that God qualified us to share in an eternal inheritance (we didn’t do anything), he rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son (in whom, by the way, we have redemption and forgiveness of sins). If this doesn’t make you thankful toward God, then maybe you aren’t a believer after all.
We cannot always know everyone really well that we wish to pray for. We may not know a lot about their circumstances, their trials, their maturity level, etc… What we do know is that if they are fellow believers in Christ, then we worship the same God. We should not let ignorance hamper our prayers for people. Paul gives us a model here of how to pray for those in a local church when we do not have the opportunity to meet them in person.
You can pray like Paul by asking that God would help them to Grow in the Knowledge of His Will by reading and studying His word. You can also pray that they would Live a Life Pleasing Him, by bearing much fruit, growing in their knowledge of God, enduring trials, and giving God the thanks/praise He deserves.