Prayer is not a means of somehow alerting God to something that He’s overlooked. Instead, it’s a way of aligning our wishes, our wills, to God. It’s a way of humbling ourselves and realizing that “without Him we can do nothing.” Prayer is not a vending machine-approach to getting what we want from a Santa Claus God. It’s a way of putting ourselves in a place to seek God’s help, strength, and desire to do as God pleases.
Over the next several weeks I will be writing a series on prayer. Mind you, it’s not necessarily the type of prayer we’re used to praying. Most prayer requests that I’ve seen over the years, printed in church bulletins have to do with temporal things, are along the lines of healing Aunt Suzy’s cat, or finding Fred a job, etc. I am not saying these things are insignificant. Please don’t misunderstand. But these temporal, temporary things that we tend to pray for are not as important as the eternal, spiritual aspect of our lives and of those who live within our sphere of influence. Looking at the two types of prayer here is like comparing a Happy Meal with a serving of prime rib.
In most of the Apostle Paul’s letters to various churches, he finds it important to mention what he is praying for about the people in that particular church. After a careful look at these prayers of Paul, it is quite clear that, while he was mindful of the temporary needs of people, he made it a priority to focus on the spiritual needs of his friends.
The first Prime Rib Prayer that I will dissect over the next few weeks will be the one found in the book of Colossians 1:9-12:
“We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. may you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.”
In this passage I find at least six things that I will focus on over the next couple of weeks, things that Paul deemed vital to pray for regarding his friends in Colossae.
“Filled with the Knowledge of His Will”
Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will but Yours be done.” the will of the Father was and is paramount. Even Jesus Christ, the Creator of the universe, sought the will of the Father.
What is “will”? [either “the power of conscious action or choice,” or “wish; pleasure.”] Makes me think of the phrase spoken out of humility, “your wish is my command.” So, learning what the will of the Father is is to determine what pleases Him, what His desires are.
This brings me to Christmas gifts. I’ve had to buy gifts for people where I had to guess, more or less, as to what they would like. i don’t like wasting gifts on people. I like them to be meaningful and to count for something. How, then, can I be sure not to waste a gift? By doing some research, i.e. getting to know someone. What makes them tick? What are their preferences? What would be offensive to them? How can I make this person feel valued, loved, appreciated?
Perhaps I oversimplify here, but I believe there are two key ingredients in getting to know someone. TIME and QUESTIONS. Time, because with some consistency you can observe a person’s desires and preferences. Questions, because by them you have the potential to dig to the core of a person’s soul, below the surface, and discover true intimacy.
So, Paul’s prayer about learning about God’s will requires the same ingredients. Learning what pleases the Father takes consistency over time. Through His Word we are able to see patterns, themes, and repetitions, things that indicate what pleases or breaks God’s heart. Any exposure to God’s Word is good, but what is better for your lawn, one minute of watering, or an hour’s worth?
What about the second ingredient, asking questions? When it comes to knowing God and the things that are important to Him, we should ask both questions about Him and questions of Him. The former, asking questions about Him, should directly apply to how we study the Bible. Basic investigative reporting brings us to “who, what, when, where, why, & how.” Not a bad place to start in attempting to understand the Bible!
Regarding asking questions of God, these are part of our dialogue with Him called “prayer.” Now, if my conversations with my girlfriend only comprised of me asking questions, the conversation would be lopsided, and would feel like an interrogation to her. Same with asking questions of God. If we only asked questions or made requests in prayer, we would be robbing ourselves of potential closeness with God, the One who orchestrated our spiritual liberation from sin as well as arranged our adoptions as His kids.