Thinking It Through: 3 Elements of Prayer on behalf of Believers
By Eric Barton
The second chapter of Colossians opens with one of several tremendous prayers contained in the epistle. Right away, we are challenged by the extent to which Paul prayed for believers he had not met and are reminded of the importance of prayer. We need not be physically present to make a spiritual impact.
As missionaries around the world will testify, the prayers of saints like you and me back home underwrite and sustain their success in foreign lands. This reality should also encourage every person who no longer feels useful to the Lord, for He faithfully assures us, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16)
The first thing Paul wrestled over in prayer on behalf of the believers, from Colossians 2:2, was “that their hearts may be encouraged.” The idea here is of comforting and strengthening. Too often, God’s people are quick to find fault with one another. But Paul offers a better approach: a fervent prayer to the God of all comfort on behalf of others.
My friends, there are already enough attacks, persecution, and suffering from without. God forbid they come from within too. Rather, following Paul’s example, let us beseech our Lord to encourage, comfort, and strengthen those of “like precious faith.” (2 Peter 1:1) Then, having prayed, let us look for opportunities in which the Lord may use us to answer that prayer.
Second, Paul longed to see the believers “knit together in love.” The idea Paul had in mind is well illustrated by the Hyperion redwood tree. Located on the West Coast of the United States, the Hyperion reaches 380 feet, making it the world’s tallest living tree. Reasonably, you might expect the roots of such a tree to run deep, but the opposite is true.
Regardless, the Hyperion can withstand the wind, rain, and storms of life despite its shallow root system. How so? Because its roots are intimately intertwined with the other redwoods around it. What one tree lacks another one supplies. And, when the wind blows, their combined strength allows them to remain standing.
God intends the same closeness and interconnectedness for the body of Christ. Fortunately, we have things far greater than the redwoods have to help us achieve such unity: Christ in us and love as the perfect bond (Colossians 1:27; 3:14).
Paul’s final request was that the believers attain “to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ.” In other words, Paul deeply desired that they grow in their understanding and knowledge of the Godhead—specifically grasping that the all-sufficient, all-glorious, and preeminent head of the church dwells in Jew and Gentile believers alike. Why? Because Paul had absolute confidence in the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ, and he knew that the more the believers understood and appreciated the same, the less vulnerable they would be to the false teachings of the day (Gnosticism).
Today, Christians are inundated with similar erroneous teachings, but the antidote remains the same: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) May God help us to grow in His grace, our knowledge of Him, and our appreciation for Him each day He gives us breath.
Another year has dawned on a world that seems determined to drift into confusion and chaos more deeply each day. Similarly, the pressure for us to compromise on, conform to, or accept views contrary to biblical truth grows. Fortunately, we need not fear, since we have a Savior who has declared, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) He is the ultimate source of the comfort, closeness, and conviction we need to withstand the onslaught. Like Paul, may we “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) ■
Eric Barton is a CMML director.