Gratitude in Prayer
One of the greatest gifts we can give others is a commitment to pray for them, a commitment that will also bring us great joy. But it’s easy to just pray through a list of petitions instead of first thanking God for their faith and fruitful ministry. Paul’s thanksgiving and prayer for the Colossians is a powerful reminder of how important both praise and petition are as we pray for one another. Like Paul, let us grow accustomed to regularly thanking God for our fellow believers as we pray for them.
Praise to God
It’s instructive that every time Paul and Timothy prayed for the Colossians, he began by thanking God for them. He thanks God for the Colossians’ “faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven” (Col. 1:4-5). This hope is nothing less than Christ, the hope of glory (1:27), but it’s also more. Believers are looking toward the day when Christ will return and we will see Him face to face in our resurrected bodies. Our faith and love are fueled by our hope of Christ, the firstfruits of the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15:20).
One reason Paul overflows with gratitude as he prays for the Colossians is because “the word of the truth, the gospel” is “bearing fruit and growing” among them (Col. 1:5-6). By alluding to the cultural mandate (Gen. 1:28), Paul is pointing out that where the first Adam failed, the second Adam, Jesus Christ, has succeeded. Not only this, as those who are in Christ, believers will succeed in bearing fruit and growing. This is because Jesus has “all authority in heaven and on earth,” and is with God’s people, building His church, until “the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).
Let us, therefore, boldly proclaim the gospel, knowing Christ is with us and that salvation is of the Lord. Let us give thanks to God when we hear of others’ faith, hope and love. And let us not cease to pray for others who are faithfully ministering in Christ’s name, thanking God for them and asking Him to make their ministry effective.
Prayer to God (1:9-14)
From the day Paul had heard of the Colossians’ faith, hope and love, he regularly prayed for them, “asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col. 1:9). By alluding to passages from the Old Testament, which describe God filling certain people with wisdom and understanding in order to build His tabernacle and temple (see Ex. 31:3; 35:31-32; 1 Kings 7:13-14), Paul makes an important connection. He is asking the Lord (the true temple) to endow the believers (temples of the Holy Spirit) with wisdom and understanding, so that they adorn the gospel in their attitudes and actions.
Jesus said, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Abiding may not be a word we are drawn to in our high-speed, minute-clinic culture, but it’s necessary to abide in Christ if we are to be fully pleasing to the Lord. Abiding in Christ means abiding in the Scriptures that reveal Him, talking to Him in prayer, loving Him with all our heart, trusting Him, and obeying Him.
Paul and Timothy also pray that the believers will be “strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father” (Col. 1:11-12). This power is nothing less than the power God used to deliver His elect “from the domain of darkness” and transfer them to “the kingdom of his beloved Son” (v. 13). Because of Christ’s redemptive work, the Father has qualified believers “to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (v. 12), the inheritance of the everlasting kingdom (see Dan. 7:18). Thanks be to God that we have been delivered from the tyranny of sin and Satan in order to serve the Son, “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:14).
The Christian life is long and difficult. We are tempted to give up those things or relationships to which God has called us instead of persevering with faith, hope and love. We are tempted to wallow in pity instead of find strength in the Lord. We are tempted to grumble instead of giving thanks. But thankfully, the power of God changes us. We can thank God when we pray for others, recognizing what He is doing in their life and ministry. We can pray often for fellow believers, asking God to strengthen them with His power so that they please Him. Since prayer is one of the greatest gifts we can give one another, and since it is a means of grace God uses to increase our faith, hope, love and fruitfulness in ministry, let us not cease to pray with gratitude for all the saints.
Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit www.sarahivill.com.