[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,

Colossians 1:9

There are so many books on prayer and so many conflicting ideas and styles that it’s quite hard to sift through the fog. Let’s go back a few hundred years to help us. John Ogilvie born in 1579 and martyred on 10 March 1615 was a Scottish Jesuit priest who said, “intercession is not so much my placing my burdens on God’s heart but God putting his burdens on our hearts.”

If I am really honest my prayer methods have swung each time someone else has produced a convincing argument for a particular prayer method (perhaps I am gullible) but one thing I have learned over the years is that God seems to delight more in me praying for others than he does when I pray for myself. I don’t mean I don’t pray for myself, boy I definitely need to, often when I get things wrong, mess up, need the Holy Spirit’s help etc, but it just seems that there appears to be a spiritual dynamic that occurs when we move from self to others. Paul said this to the church in Corinth,

[11] You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

2 Corinthians 1:11

Following the deliverance from deadly peril Paul asked for the prayers of the many. He was an apostle with amazing gifting yet it was to the prayers of the ordinary in Corinth he looked to for his continued deliverance. Paul explains the dynamic of prayer, that blessing comes though the prayers of many. If you like, no prayer, no blessing. This raises the issue of the Sovereignty of God (will not God help Paul without the prayers of the many?)The mystery is that God chooses to supply many of his blessings through the prayers of his people.

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

Philippians 1:19

Also, God is worshiped by the many expressions of gratitude that will be said for the blessings he bestowed on Paul through these prayers. It’s a win-win! Paul gets the protection and God gets the praise!

So, back to Colossians 1:9

Let’s ask, why does Paul intercede in prayer for the Colossians?

As we saw in a previous blog post, their faith in Christ Jesus and their love for the saints (vs 4) their hope (vs 5) stirred his heart. Let your imagination run a little, when Paul heard of the great news coming from Colossae Paul was probably bursting to tell everyone he could what God was doing and wanted to “thank God” (vs 3).

I wish this were the normal! That each time we gathered with each other, following those times our souls were so stirred that the result of our times together was an overflow of gratitude and prayer for those we have just been with. It’s almost as if sometimes we leave behind events and the people of our fellowship.

But not so Paul. Although he languished in prison, he rejoiced over the success and spiritual prosperity of those in Colossae. Unable to restrain his exuberance, he lifts these saints before the throne of grace with gratitude and prays on their behalf for yet more and even greater spiritual benefits. Not a mention of the prison or the conditions of the prison. Not a mention of why God is blessing them and why he is in this rotten, stinking prison but rather he rejoices and prays for others.

I also find it amazing that Paul had never even met these people, that in shackles he prays for a people he did not know. At best we can tell, Epaphras brought the gospel to Colossae. Paul wouldn’t have known a single name or recognised a single face in that church and yet he prays for them passionately and persistently. Humbling!

From that horrible prison cell, we could have imagined that Paul mustered up maybe a small prayer, after all the conditions were overwhelming but not Paul, how often did he pray for them? “We have not ceased to pray for you,” (vs 9) he happily says. This doesn’t mean that Paul never did anything else but pray, as if every waking moment was spent in prayer. It simply means that every time Paul prayed (his preferred prayer method was three times a day) the Colossian believers were always in his heart and therefore on his lips. Let me say that again, he prayed because they, the church in Colossae, were in his heart and because of that they were on his lips.

So, do we pray for others because we know they are praying for us? Do we pray for others because we know we will benefit from their love and care and maybe material blessings? Do we pray for others because we will in the end benefit ourselves in some spiritual way? Do we pray for others because we are the ones who have this wonderful gift of prayer that others, slightly less spiritual than us may benefit? Absolutely not! We pray because we long to see othersfilled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (vs 9). We long for others to be blessed.

There may times in our lives when we deliberately and purposely set aside time to pray. It may be that it’s a minute here or ten minutes there. Whatever it is, we pray because deep in our heart is the progress in God of others, but remember, God only places them on your heart because they are on his first!