Living in the Context of Prayer
Recently, while reading Paul’s letter to the believers in Colossae, I was struck by a new thought. Over the years, I have always assumed that Paul simply prayed while he wrote this letter (which he obviously did as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit). Instead, I could not help but wonder if, in fact, Paul wrote the letter out of the context of his praying.
Paul’s Prayers for the People
In a style fairly typical of Paul, he commences the Colossian letter with a reference to his thankful prayers for these believers. This leads him to actually write an extended prayer for them as the Spirit inspires him:
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; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:9–14)
This prayer sets the tone for the rest of the letter. Prayer framed the deep struggle of soul he felt for them (2:1), a struggle which some commentators believe was primarily a struggle in his prayers on their behalf.
As Paul concluded the letter, just before he offers an array of greetings to various individuals, he again returns to the reality of prayer. You could say that he is urging them to join him in prayer and, certainly, hopes they will follow his example. He wanted them to do as he had done. He prayed for them as he asked the Lord for their spiritual blessings in an attitude of gratitude. As he concluded he gave this challenge: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (4:2).
The Spring of Prayer
So we discover that prayer was interlaced throughout the letter to the Colossians because it was woven so deeply in the heart of Paul as he wrote. His writing, his leading, and his pursuit of Christ was a lifestyle of prayer.
Too often we arrange our praying around our regular activities rather than arranging our other activities around our praying. Perhaps we view prayer as a separate “compartment” in our routine rather than the moment-by-moment compulsion of our daily life. Paul’s model reminds us that prayer shapes the very environment and content of all we do and is the fuel for our daily spiritual passion.
Too often we arrange our praying around our regular activities rather than arranging our other activities around our praying.
Prayer shapes the very environment and content of all we do and is the fuel for our daily spiritual passion.
My friend, Pastor Keeney Dickenson, has noted, “We tend to pray in the context of ministry. Jesus ministered in the context of prayer.” In today’s lifestyle we can easily draw a firm line between prayer and Bible study. We make a clear separation between prayer and ministry activity. This is often seen in our tradition of “opening” and then “closing” our gatherings in prayer. Perhaps with Jesus, and also with Paul, that line was virtually indiscernible. Prayer is not about some obligatory duty to be attached to particular responsibilities but rather a pulsating spiritual desire that permeated all things in life.
Prayer is not about some obligatory duty to be attached to particular responsibilities but rather a pulsating spiritual desire that permeated all things in life.
Could it Be?
So what might happen if we lived, related, worked, and served in the context of a praying life? No doubt we would be much more aware of the presence, power, and promises of the Holy Spirit. Our orientation in daily life would be eternal, not temporal. The loudest voice of the day would not be that of our own emotions or the opinions of men, but rather the will of the Holy Spirit. We would be able to better obey His promptings, speak His truth, and boldly witness of His gospel. We would live a life of sufficiency rather than focusing on our own scarcity. Abiding prayer could change every reasoning of the mind, every relationship in the home, and every reaction to life’s challenges.
Abiding prayer could change every reasoning of the mind, every relationship in the home, and every reaction to life’s challenges.
So today, ask the Holy Spirit to give you a deepening conviction, a fresh consciousness, and a renewed commitment to abide in Christ through a praying life.
Copyright © 2018 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.