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Paul's Eye Opening Prayer - Pray For Knowedge Of God's Will

COLOSSIANS PART III

Paul's Prayer for the colossians

Last week we talked about Paul's introduction in his letter to the Colossians. We saw the introduction is important. In Colossians 1:3-8 Paul has reminded the Colossians about the seven aspects of the gospel that are the foundation.

What we'll see this week is that Paul always starts his letters with a doctrinal foundation, before he teaches or exhorts.

Last week we saw that the gospel:

  • is received by faith

  • results in love

  • rests in hope

  • is universal, it reaches the world

  • produces fruit

  • is rooted in grace

  • is reported by people


Next Paul is going to mention how he has been praying for the Colossians. It is an excellent example of how to pray, what to pray for, and there are some doctrinal lessons. Let's read Colossians 1:9-11



Colossians 1:9-11

9 - For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

10 - so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

11 - strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously

I have friends in Uganda. It took more flying hours to get there than any other place I've been. We take it for granted that we can talk with anyone via the internet. I talk with my friends in Russia and Indonesia. But, that does not work in Uganda. It may take a week or two to exchange email messages. In many cases they may only walk to a place that has electricity once a week, or every other week. Communication can be slow and difficult.

 

How can we know what their needs are? How can we minister directly to their spiritual well-being without seeing them or even talking with them, or knowing what's going on?

We can play a role in their spiritual growth--- and even secure God's blessings for them. The amazing power to do this is prayer.

Paul had never been to Colossea. But, he had heard about the Colossian church and was praying for them.

 

The ministry of an Apostle was primarily a teaching and praying ministry. Here we have a sample of Paul's ministry of prayer on the behalf of the church in Colossea. Was prayer important?

Paul often talked about the important role prayer played in his ministry:



2 Corinthians 1:11

you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.

Philippians 1:19

for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,



And we are exhorted by scripture to pray for one another:

 

Ephesians 6:18

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,

 

1 Timothy 2:1

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,

 

Because prayer is so important, Paul starts by sharing the nature of his prayers for the Colossians, before he begins to teach them. His passionate words contain two elements:

 

Petition and praise. We'll begin with Colossians 1:9, but let's read Colossians 1:7-9

 

7 - just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf,

8 - and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit.

9 - For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

 

Paul starts by saying, “For this reason.” That is referring to the favorable report Paul received from Epaphras that he refers to in verse 8.

 

Is it necessary to pray for those who are doing well? We focus our prayer on those who are struggling, or facing difficulties, or have fallen into sin. It seems most of prayer is focused on those with medical problems.

If someone is progressing in faith, and everything is going well, do they need your prayers? Yes! We should be praying for greater progress. Remember, the strongest opposition is reserved for those who have the most potential for expanding God's world.



How do we pray like Paul?

First: To be in prayer like this requires an attitude of God-consciousness. That does not mean to be constantly verbally praying. But, to view everything in life in relation to God.

  • When we meet someone, do you immediately consider where they stand with God?

  • If we hear about something bad happening, do you react with prayer, asking God to act in the situation because you know He cares?

  • If you hear about something good happening, do you respond with immediate praise for God, because you know He is glorified.



When Paul looked around the world, everything he saw prompted him to pray in some way.

Nehemiah is an example of someone who prayed without ceasing.

For example, after King Artaxerxes demanded to know why he was looking sad, Nehemiah told him about the destruction of Jerusalem.

 

Asked by the king for his request, he prayed a brief prayer before replying. In the midst of a stressful situation, Nehemiah was conscious of God's character and purpose.

Second: unceasing prayer is people consciousness. We cannot effectively pray for people unless we are aware of their needs.

We'll see this when we get to verse 4:2 where Paul exhorts the Colossians to keep alert in prayer. He wrote something similar to the Ephesians:

 

Ephesians 6:18

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,

These two elements of unceasing prayer came together in Paul:

  1. His love for God led him to seek unbroken communion with God.

  2. His love for people drove him to unceasing prayer on their behalf.

 

The prayers revealed in Paul's letters reveal his heart and are models for us to follow.

Paul's petition on behalf of the Colossians is that:



Colossians 1:9

 

9 - For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

 

The Greek word used here means to be completely filled, or totally controlled. For example, the same word is used in Acts 4:31 when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and in Acts 6:5 when Stephen was full of the faith. In each case they were totally under the control of what filled them – the Holy Spirit. This is what Paul is asking for the Colossians.

Paul is asking that the Colossians be totally controlled by the knowledge... by a deep and complete knowledge of God's will.

Knowledge is a central theme in Paul's writings. That's why we study scripture, and read books that help us to better understand scripture. To grow in our knowledge of God and God's will. Paul constantly prayer that believers would have knowledge:

 

1 Corinthians 1:5

that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge,

 

Paul prayed that:

Ephesians 1:17

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.

He wrote to the Philippians:

 

Philippians 1:9

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment,

 

We live in a culture that denies absolutes, in particular in the area of morals. There is no source of authority to provide absolute standards. Anything goes. The moral values that are enforced are usually arbitrary and based on human opinion.


For us, God's word provides absolutes. They are the basis upon which all truth about God, and all standards of conduct and faith are built. Knowledge about those absolutes is the basis for correct behavior and ultimate judgment, and that means it is crucial to know about God's revealed truth.


Ignorance is not bliss – no one can please God on the basis of principles they do not know. Does truth make a difference? In other words, does the gospel make a difference?

 

There is a researcher named Robert Woodberry. He wanted to find out why some countries developed stable democracies, while other neighboring countries developed authoritarian rulers and internal conflict. Public health, economic growth, and education also varied greatly – even among countries with similar geography, cultures, and natural resources. Why?

 

What was it that made a difference? The results were published 10 years ago, and continue to be refined. Quote from a recent Christianity Today article:

 

"The results were so strong, they made me nervous," says Woodberry. "I expected an effect, but I had not expected it to be that large or powerful. I thought, I better make sure this is real. I better be very careful."

 

He did extensive research. In 2002 he received a half million dollar grant, and hired nearly 50 research assistants to help with the work.

 

Typically here are what other scholars say about the results:

 

"I think it's the best work out there on religion and economic development," says Robin Grier, professor of economics and international and area studies at the University of Oklahoma. "It's incredibly sophisticated and well grounded. I haven't seen anything quite like it."

 

Philip Jenkins, distinguished professor of history at Baylor University. "Try as I might to pick holes in it, the theory holds up. [It has] major implications for the global study of Christianity."

 

So what was it that made a difference?

 

One thing and one thing only... the gospel.

Here are some quotes from the article:

"Areas where Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in nongovernmental associations."

"There is one important nuance to all this: The positive effect of missionaries on democracy applies only to "conversionary Protestants." Protestant clergy financed by the state, as well as Catholic missionaries prior to the 1960s, had no comparable effect in the areas where they worked."

"In short: Want a blossoming democracy today? The solution is simple—if you have a time machine: Send a 19th-century protestant missionary."

The truth of the gospel makes a difference. What is the problem the world has? Sin.

What is the only solution? The gospel. The true gospel. Not a social gospel. Not a gospel from which sin and hell have been eliminated. The truth of scripture is the only answer.

 

So, Paul views knowledge of doctrinal absolutes as foundational to Godly living. Most of Paul's letters begin by laying a doctrinal foundation before giving practical exhortations.

For example, in Romans Paul gives 11 chapters of doctrine before turning to Godly living in chapter 12.

In Galatians, chapters 1-4 are doctrinal, and 5 and 6 are practical.

The first three chapters in Ephesians are doctrinal, and the last three urge us to live according to that doctrine.

Philippians and Colossians follow the same pattern.

In scripture Godly living is linked directly to knowledge of doctrinal truth.

 

The Bible also warns about a lack of knowledge...

 

Proverbs 19:2

it is not good for a person to be without knowledge,

 

What was the reason Israel went into exile? For a lack of knowledge:

 

Isaiah 5:13

Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge;
And their honorable men are famished,
And their multitude is parched with thirst.

 

Hosea 4:6

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also will reject you from being My priest.
Since you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children.

 

In the New Testament nothing has changed. Knowledge is crucial:

 

1 Corinthians 14:20

Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.

 

Ephesians 4:13-14 tells us that a lack of knowledge results in children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;



Ephesians 4:18

being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;

 

How does a person obtain the needed knowledge?

 

First – you must desire it.

 

John 7:17

If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.

The same thought is echoed in Hosea 6:3

So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth.

 

That's the problem with the world. They are not willing. That's what spiritual blindness is... willingly blind.

Second – you must depend on the Holy Spirit.

It is through the Holy Spirit that we know the things God has revealed to us:

This does not mean we sit on the couch all day and wait for a “word of wisdom” to come to us from the Spirit. How do we learn? We study scripture using the best tools we have available.

 

Third – we must study the scriptures. It is the scriptures that inform us and guide us. It is the Holy Spirit who illuminates scripture for us.



2 Timothy 3:16-17

16 - All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

17 - so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

This means I use my John MacArthur commentary when I studying for a sermon – I don't just ponder it and write what I think the Holy Spirit is saying to me...

By the way, think about it... if I just listened for the Holy Spirit and then wrote down what came to mind... that would mean I was writing scripture.

 

The principles are to pray, study scripture being open to the illumination of the Holy Spirit, but also use the tools God has provided through men such as John MacArthur. And avoid un-Biblical tools, such as Jesus Calling.



What was Paul's prayer?

It was that the Colossians might have knowledge of His – God's – will.

 

God's will is not a secret. He has revealed His will in His word. What is God's will?

For example, it is God's will that people be saved:

 

Once they are saved, it is God's will that they be filled with the spirit.



Ephesians 5:17-18

17 - So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

 

18 - And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,


Sanctification is God's will:

 

1 Thessalonians 4:3

For this is the will of God, your sanctification;

 

It is God's will that we be submissive to the government



1 Peter 2:13 & 15

13 - Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority,

15 - For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.

 

Suffering is God's will for some believers:



1 Peter 4:19

Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.

 

Giving thanks is God's will:



1 Thessalonians 5:18

in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

 

To know God's will, we need knowledge of scripture.

Having the knowledge of God's word, and having that knowledge control our minds is the key to righteous living. What controls your thoughts controls your behavior.

 

Self-control is the result of mind-control, which is based on knowledge.

 

Finally Paul says: Knowledge of God's word will lead to:

 

9 - For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

 

Wisdom and understanding have similar meanings, but they are not the same.

 

Wisdom is the ability to collect and organize principles from scripture. It's about the principles that guide us.

 

Understanding refers to the application of those principles to everyday life. You understand the principles and that means you can apply them.

How do we get to know God's will?

It is believing, submissive Bible study that leads to knowledge of God's will.

 

A mind saturated with Biblical knowledge will also be able to comprehend the general principles of Godly behavior. With that wisdom will come an understanding of how to apply those principles to the situations of life.

What does this result in?



Colossians 1:10-11

10 - so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

11 - strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously



A mind controlled by knowledge, wisdom, and understanding produces a life that is worthy of the Lord.

 

It seems impossible that anyone could walk worthy of the Lord, but that's what scripture says.

 

1 Thessalonians 2:12

so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.



Ephesians 4:1

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,

 

Philippians 1:27

conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ



How can we do this? Not with our own resources.

 

Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

 

Christ dwells in us in the person of the Holy Spirit. Trying to walk worthy in our own strength is doomed to failure.

 

Colossians 1:10

10 - so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

 

Fruitfulness also results from knowledge. Fruit is the by-product of righteousness. It is the way we identify redeemed individuals.

 

John 15:8

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

Fruit is defined in a number of ways in scripture.

  • Those who begin trusting Jesus are referred to as fruit.

  • Hebrews 13:15 talks about praise to God as the fruit of the lips.

  • Romans 15:26-28 talks about giving money as fruit.

  • Godly living is fruit as Hebrews 12:11 says, “the peaceful fruit of righteousness”

 

Finally we have the attributes in Galatians 5:22-23 referred to as fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.



Colossians 1:10

10 - so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

Here is the third result of knowledge – spiritual growth.

 

Spiritual grow is progressing in the knowledge of God. The knowledge of God revealed in scripture is crucial to our spiritual growth.



What are the marks of spiritual growth?

  • a deeper love for God's word

  • more perfect obedience

  • enlarged faith

  • greater love

 

Colossians 1:11

11 - strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously

The fourth result of knowledge is spiritual strength. The language used here indicates a continual strengthening. God is NOT like a booster rocket, giving us a big boost of power, then leaving us to fly on our own. Believers are continuously strengthened with all power throughout our Christian lives.

How much strength do we have? The measure of the power behind our strength is “according to His glorious might” - the power that is available is the limitless power of God Himself.



God's power is manifested in us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The power is available to the believer who is filled with the knowledge of God's word.

 

Colossians 1:11

11 - strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously

 

The fifth result of true spiritual knowledge is joyous endurance of trials. The knowledge of God's promises in scripture gives the strength to endure trials and suffering. We have patient enduring of trials.

 

Paul is not referring to a teeth grinding, tough-it-out endurance. The strength provided by knowledge of God's word allows us to endure trials joyously.

What a guide these three verses provide for living our lives! Paul gives us a summary of his prayers for the Colossians and the reason for the things he prays for:

 

Paul prays for:

The Colossians to be filled with knowledge of God's will, in wisdom and understanding.

So that they will:

  1. Live worthy of the Lord

  2. Be fruitful

  3. Increasing knowledge of God (spiritual growth)

  4. Be strengthened (spiritual strength)

  5. Be joyous in suffering

 

Does this give you something to pray for... for yourself and others. Knowledge of God's will and the benefits that brings. Are you going to change anything in your life to seek even more the knowledge of God's will?



Steve Hudgik
June 15, 2014

Cannon Beach Bible Church
264 Hills Lane (Box 1068)
Cannon Beach, OR 97110
503-741-9380

www.cbbc.us

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