How to Pray Intelligently*

30 Oct

*even when you don’t know what people’s needs are

One of my favorite verses on prayer is found in Psalm 116:1-2.

I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

This reminds me that prayer is a conversation with someone who listens. It is a relationship with someone who cares. God leans forward and inclines his ear to listen to my concerns. His response causes me to want to pray more and to love him more deeply.

I also appreciate Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:9-14 because it gives me a model of how to pray for people even when I may not know their needs. I can pray that other Christ followers will understand what God desires and that they will live their faith.

In verse 9, the apostle Paul prays the Colossian believers will be filled with a knowledge of God’s will. He wants them to understand what God’s desire is for them. In the late 80’s, a book was published with the clever title, All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.  The sad thing is that is summarizes many people’s knowledge of Scripture. Many believers are immature and have never grown beyond, “Jesus loves me.”

Paul prays the Colossians will be filled with a knowledge of God’s will. The word, “filled,” pictures a ship laden with cargo ready to leave port on an ocean voyage. It is filled to completion. The word also carries the idea of control (Ephesians 5:18). When we are filled with anger, we are controlled by anger. When we are filled with alcohol, we are controlled by that substance. When we are filled with a knowledge of God’s will, it should transform our lives. That leads to Paul’s second request in verses 10-14, that the Colossians would live their faith.

In Scripture, knowledge always has an ethical dimension. What we believe should impact how we behave. Knowledge of God and his will should change our lifestyle. Paul goes on to describe four characteristics of a lifestyle that pleases God—fruitful service, growing knowledge, patient endurance, and a thankful heart. Paul closes his prayer by giving three reasons for giving thanks—we share in Christ’s inheritance, we were rescued from danger, and we are forgiven.

The next time you feel prompted to pray for a friend, family member, coworker, or acquaintance, pray that they will know and understand God’s will for their life, and that the knowledge will help them live in such a way that gives glory and honor to God. Pray their lives will be characterized by fruitful service, growing knowledge of God and Scripture, patience with people and circumstances, and that they will give thanks for what God has done for them.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on October 30, 2016. It is part of a series on Prayer: Moving Heaven for Earth. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


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