Colossians 1:9-10, “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;”
Long before the advent of Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, before churches started producing live streams and doing church online, a pastor-missionary cared for and served a church he had never seen. The apostle Paul was one of the first proponents of a remote-based ministry, which is seen in his letter to the Colossians. Now, for many of Paul’s writings, such as his letters to the Corinthians, he wrote as someone who had visited and ministered in person. Colossians is a letter to a group of people who he had never seen. Yet, despite the lack of physical presence, Paul had heard about the church in Colossae, that they were a church that had responded to the gospel in a powerful way, as led by their pastor, Epaphras. The thrill of hearing about a church like this led Paul to a joy-filled prayer that this response to the gospel would find its completion in the sanctification of its people. Paul’s prayer for the Colossian believers is one that would be great to pray for all believers and to have a group of people praying for yourself. So, as we look at this prayer of Paul, perhaps one takeaway from it is to find someone who could pray this prayer for you and find someone for whom you would pray this prayer of Paul.
The introduction to Paul’s prayer is not something we want just to pass over quickly to get to the prayer, for in the introduction, we see a couple of things that give us a picture into who Paul was. He begins by telling us that he started praying for them “from the day we heard.” For Paul, there was no delay, no waiting, no putting it in the schedule. He stopped right then and prayed for these believers. I have often been amazed at the faith of young children. I have seen this in how, when they hear someone is hurting, or there is a problem, they will often stop what they are doing and say, “let’s pray right now.” Paul is a perfect example of the urgency to pray that is often lacking in followers of Jesus.
Paul demonstrates another vital aspect of prayer, and that is perseverance. He tells them that he and Timothy “have not ceased to pray for you.” For Paul, this was not a one-time prayer for them. While a child might stop at that moment and pray, not many will remember to continue in prayer for the need. Paul makes it clear that he has continued to pray for the Colossian believers. It is an example for us to follow: to keep at it in prayer, being faithful to bring these requests before God.
As we consider the content of Paul’s prayer, it is helpful to work backward from vs. 10 to vs. 9. The main focus of his prayer is that they “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.” The surrounding phrases serve to recognize how this will happen (vs. 9) and what the results will include (vs. 10), but the walk, the way they conduct their lives, is central in Paul’s prayer. Why is the walk so important? It is not how we are saved, nor is it how others are saved through watching us. However, the walk of a believer is vital in two ways, according to our text.
First, it is simply worthy of the Lord. When we consider the whole truth about God, the appropriate response is one of trust driven following. We follow Jesus because He is worthy of our devotion; he is worthy of our worship; he is worthy of our lives.
Second, a worthy walk simply pleases God. We tend to want to please the people closest to us. We want them to be proud of us. It is why children want to get mom and dad’s attention before doing something. They want mom and dad to be pleased with what they are doing. In the same way, we should want to live our lives so that our heavenly Father is pleased with us.
While the walk is central, Paul’s structure of this passage makes clear we will not get there on our own. Perhaps this is obvious since it is something that is in a prayer, but it is something we can easily forget. For us to walk in a worthy manner, we need help! The help we need forms the first part of the prayer: being “filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” This is knowledge that is prayed for but not academic study. It is the spiritual knowledge and understanding that can only come from God. Paul was writing to a people facing a heresy that seems to have been about some form of higher knowledge. Paul tells them through his prayer that yes, they do need higher knowledge, they just need it from the right source: God.
The end result of a worthy walk, then, is a fruit producing life. Through the empowering work of God, and the enlightenment of His word, our lives can be spiritually fruitful. The fruit may be the impact on those around us or simply a strengthening of our faith in uncertain times. The impact and growth does not come from us doing better, but through God working in us as we walk in Him. So, we get busy doing the work of the Lord and trust Him to use what we do to bear fruit.
The other result of a worthy walk is an increase in the knowledge of God. This is a knowledge of God that leads to a more settled peace. Knowing that God is sovereign helps us to stand firm in uncertain times. Knowing God is faithful gives us hope that he will not forsake us or leave us. Knowing God is loving fills us with encouragement and peace that what he does is for our good and his glory. Knowledge of God leads to a strengthened faith. Increasing knowledge of God simply leads to even more strength. May God continue to add strength to our faith as we walk in a worthy manner, inspired and driven by the spiritual wisdom given us by God.
Rick Hanna serves as Senior Pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Guilderland, NY. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Heather, and is a father to ssevenchildren. He is passionate about international student ministry and adoption and enjoys reading, music, and sports (though as a Philly fan & Purdue alum, it usually means supporting the losing team).