THE APOSTLE PAUL’S PATTERN FOR INTERCESSORY PRAYER
Do you have a heart for prayer? Do you aspire to pray for others… even those you may not know personally… yet are unsure of just how to express your prayers?
God often places it on our hearts to pray for someone. Although our desire is to pray, we may not always know what is happening in their lives or why they need prayer. Yet we do not have to be aware of the specifics to lift them in prayer because our omniscient Lord already knows. We are just to recognize and act on His Spirit’s leading.
On the apostle Paul’s missionary journeys, many churches were planted and established either by him personally or by his fellow ministers. We read in Scripture of Paul’s heartfelt prayers for the people in these churches, many of whom he had never met.
The church at Colossae is especially in Paul’s thoughts and prayers during his imprisonment in Rome around AD 60. His friend and faithful minister Epaphras planted the Colossian church during the time Paul was growing his church in Ephesus. Paul remembers hearing of the deep faith of the Colossians and refers to them in his letter as “God’s holy people” (Colossians 1:2).
Paul’s love and concern for these believers prompts him to write a personal letter to them. He affirms the strong roots of their faith in Christ as taught to them by Epaphras. He praises them for the Spirit’s love that is alive and growing amongst them. Yet he has also heard of false teachings that have infiltrated the church. He counters these deceptions by presenting the absolute supremacy and sufficiency of Christ.
Nestled in Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae is a heartfelt prayer of encouragement for the people. It is a pattern we can use today for intercessory prayer. It is comprehensive, wide-ranging, all-encompassing. It is warm, loving, compassionate. Let us look closely at Paul’s prayer for ways to personally apply it as we intercede for others…
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.” – Colossians 1:3
⇒ Pray with faith-filled expectation, thanking God for the person on your heart – Believe that He answers our sincere, honest prayers when we want only the best for one another.
“Since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you.” – 1:9
⇒ Pray diligently and persistently – Continue to lift them up in prayer, even when answers are slow in coming
“We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will.” – 1:9
⇒ Pray that they know and understand God’s will for them – If they have gone astray, ask God to lead them back into His will… and make them all He created and called them to be
“Through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.” – 1:9
⇒ Pray that they be filled with the Spirit’s wisdom and discernment – Ask God to pour out His Spirit upon them and help them follow His leadings
“So that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way.” – 1:10
⇒ Pray that they glorify God and please Him with their lives – Ask Him to infill them with a longing to follow Him, His Word and His ways
“Bearing fruit in every good work.” – 1:10
⇒ Pray that they bear spiritual fruit for God’s kingdom – Ask Him to place in their hearts a desire to store up treasures in heaven, seeking eternal rather than temporal rewards
“Growing in the knowledge of God.” – 1:10
⇒ Pray that they grow closer to God – Ask Him to touch their lives with His presence… and draw them ever closer to Him in unity and harmony
“Being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might.” – 1:11
⇒ Pray that they be empowered by God to live a Christlike life – Ask Him to open their eyes if they are endeavoring to do life in their own power rather than looking to Christ for victory
“So that you may have great endurance and patience.” – 1:11
⇒ Pray that they carry on in Christ and not give up – Ask Him to comfort them in difficult times and remind them that He is their Cornerstone and their hope
“And giving joyful thanks to the Father.” – 1:12
⇒ Pray that they be ever joyful and thankful for their blessings – Ask God to show them that He is the Giver and their source for abundant life
“Who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light.” – 1:12
⇒ Pray that they remember their glorious inheritance as children of light through Christ. If they are not believers, ask God to draw them to Christ with His unending and eternal love
Whether prayed for someone close to us or for a faraway missionary we know little about, Paul’s prayer to the Colossians expresses well God’s desire for each one of His treasured creations. Imagine how many lives could be touched if we prayed this prayer from our hearts…
Heavenly Father, I ask You to fill _______ with the knowledge of Your will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that they may live a life worthy of You and please You in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of You, being strengthened with all power according to Your glorious might so that they may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to You, who have qualified them to share in the inheritance of Your holy people in the kingdom of light. In Jesus’ name, Amen.