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March 4, 2011


A better way to pray for others (Part 1)

I know none of us subscribe to a “prosperity gospel,” but don’t most of our prayers for other people sound something like that? Ever sit through a church prayer meeting? Don’t most of the prayer requests you hear center on health, wealth, and success in the lives of the people we pray for?

D. A Carson once said about our prayer for ourselves and others:

“80 or 90 percent of our petitions ask God for good health, recovery from illness, safety on the road, a good job, success in exams, the emotional needs of our children, success in our mortgage application, and much more of the same.”

Is there a better way to pray for others?

I was recently studying in Colossians and was struck with the way Paul prayed for others. It sounded nothing like a typical trip down our (my) prayer list!

Col 1:3-14 is one prayer, which in the Greek is fixed in two complicated sentences. The first sentence starts in v.3 and ends at v.8. The second sentence starts at v.9 and ends at v.14.

Paul begins his prayer for others by giving thanks to God for others. He prays from a heart of gratitude toward God. The whole prayer essentially is saying is, “Thank you, Lord.”

He begins by saying:

3 We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,

Then Paul goes on to list all the aspects of his friends lives that he thanks God for:

-faith in Jesus Christ
-love for the saint
-blessed hope of heaven
-the gospel
-the fruit and growth of the gospel.

The heart of Paul’s prayer is thanksgiving to God for others. Can you see his heart grow closer to the Colossians as Paul thanks God for what is going on in their lives?

It is difficult to be hardhearted about people when we are thanking God for them in private. How would our hearts draw closer to God and others if sometimes we just worked down our prayer list and thanked God for what he is doing and has done in the lives of the people we pray for?

Did you also notice that Paul’s thanksgiving celebrates the eternal matters in the Colossians’ lives, rather than focusing on the short-term?

Paul never says, “I thank God because they won the Super Bowl. I thank God because they made A’s. I thank God because they got over the flu.” He was totally focused on things that mattered for eternity — faith, hope, love, and the gospel — not just the immediate concerns of the moment.

You will really see this come out in Part 2 of this series, as we dig into what Paul prayed for after he finished his “thanksgiving time.”

  1. Gabriel Spence
    Mar 12 2011

    This actually is stunning example of how we often look at God as a cosmic genie and not a God interested in making us more like His Son. It seems Paul is encouraging us to pray for eternal things… the things that really matter for eternity. I wonder how this would transform our prayer time or even prayer request time in Home Group.

  2. Mar 12 2011

    For God to be glorified in my life is a more Scriptural than prayer for my own health/wealth/success.

    How backward is our thinking..

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