Home > Brandenburg, Prayer, The Word > A Valid Prayer Request (Colossians 1:9)

A Valid Prayer Request (Colossians 1:9)

January 14, 2010

I have to admit that I both think and feel that I’m a dufus at prayer.  I know I’ve got to depend on Scripture to know what to pray.  That makes these prayer texts in the epistles so helpful.  God wants me to pray this for sure.  My confidence as I go to God becomes huge.  And Paul talks about his prayer for these Colossians right here.  So let’s listen and learn.

By praying, I can help people anywhere and everywhere by long distance.  And Paul was a long ways away all the time from people he loved.  But he’s always praying for them, therefore having an impact in their lives more than a social network.   Prayer offers a beautiful multi-task.  You can chew gum, walk, and pray at the same time.

You’ll notice in his letters that Paul prays for believers.  I think we should get what we do in the Christian life from the Bible.  That would be sort of like having the Bible be your sole authority for faith and practice.  Paul doesn’t pray for unbelievers.  You may reply, “So are you saying it’s wrong then?!?!”  Good come back.  Read the second and third sentences in this paragraph again before you continue.  Now Paul didn’t really know the Colossians, but he was assured by Epaphras that they were a swell group of Christians there.   They loved God.  And that fact motivated Paul to pray for them all the time ever since he had heard it.

And Paul prayed for the sniffly nose of Jethro, for Balthus’ to get a promotion, and for Aunt Bernice’ arthritis to start feelin’ better.  Nope.  He didn’t mention any of those things.  You may reply, “So are you saying it’s wrong then?!?!”  Um.  Go back up to the previous paragraph and read sentences two and three again.  He did pray that those saints would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will.

So he prayed for the Colossian believers to learn what God’s will was?  No.  He prayed that they would be filled with the knowledge of it.  The idea of the verb, “be filled,” is to be controlled by.  That’s how it’s used in the New Testament.  Paul desired and so prayed that the knowledge of God’s will would control them.  He wanted them to do what God wanted them to do.  That was his prayer request.  Do you pray that for people?  Are you actually controlled by the knowledge of God’s will?  Hopefully someone will pray that on your behalf and you’ll pray it for others.

I want to pause to emphasize “knowledge” here.  He’s praying that they will be controlled by knowledge, not by emotions.  Unfortunately, a lot of churches try to foster emotions through their music, their programs, and even their evangelism.  So many Christians do what they feel.  God wants us to do something that we know.  How do we know it?  We know it by thinking about it.  Let’s think through what God’s Word says about things and then do what He wants.  The Holy Spirit is going to lead us through what we know, which is in our brain.

Just a brief connection to the larger context.  He didn’t want them to be controlled by the false knowledge espoused by the local false teachers.  He didn’t want the church’s behavior influenced by the Gnostics or the ascetics.   The knowledge of God’s will would be something different than that crowd was teaching.

Paul adds a couple of descriptors at the end of the verse:  “in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.”   It’s not as though there is a kind of controlling knowledge of God’s will that won’t be in wisdom and spiritual understanding.   The controlling knowledge will create in a person’s life wisdom and discernment.  A person who is controlled by the knowledge of the Word of God will make the right decisions.  He will assess situations properly.  He will know what the proper use of his time is.  He will handle his finances like he should.  He will get done the activities that God wants him to.  He will lead his family right.  He won’t get sucked up or swayed by unscriptural movements and influences.  In other words, he’ll make good applications of Scripture.

Do you get what this prayer encompasses?  If so, good.  Now let’s live it.  And let’s pray it.  All the time.

  1. Joshua
    January 14, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Just so you guys don’t think the lack of argumentative posts means no one is reading – I’m learning heaps from this, so please keep it coming.

  2. Anvil
    January 14, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    In line with your 2nd two sentences from paragraph 3, we have James 5:14-15, which read:

    14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

    15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

    So as pastor, and therefore one of the elders of your church, you *should* pray for any sick person of your church that asks it of you. I don’t have much to say about “sniffly nose[s],” but as I have a relatively young sister-in-law with arthritis that some days barely leaves her with the ability to move her hands and arms, and that with strong medication, I believe your characterization of that condition to be one that lacks understanding.

    I actually agree that we pray too much about trivial things and not so much about what God really sees as important, but there is indeed scriptural basis for praying for the sick, at the very least from the elders of the church.

  3. January 14, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Anvil, rather than writing out a long explanation, I’ll just link to a post I wrote on that very passage a couple of years ago here. Read the comments too, because I include more exegesis in there.


    Sorry about your sister-in-law. We have a lady like that in our church. My mom has it pretty bad in a disabling kind of way too. She’s also in our church. Has a pastor gone to her house and prayed over her? Did he pour oil on her? The last two questions are serious. They are curious too. One more question. Besides James 5:14-15, where else would you argue for praying for the sick?

  4. January 14, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    There are several ways that we can pray for the sick, and should. We should pray that they would be strengthened in their hour of trial, that God would sustain them, that they would find His grace sufficient. I think we can imply that from what Paul says right here in the verse you are discussing. Paul prays that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, and those things are certainly included.

    I think we can also make implications from the many cases when people brought their sick friends and family members to Jesus Christ for healing, or asked Christ to heal them. Their request could be considered a prayer, as they were asking Christ to do this, and that would be an example of a Christian asking for healing for a friend, neighbor, etc. If you are uncomfortable with asking for healing on the basis that in some cases this would be an unreasonable request (for example, praying for your grandparents, already in their 80’s, who have a heart condition), perhaps it would be more reasonable to pray for grace in their time of need, for a lessening of their suffering, etc.

    Just some thoughts!

  5. January 14, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    I wrote this sentence in my James 5:14-15: “I could defend praying for the sick with Scriptural implications at the most.” That fits what you’ve written here Dave. In that same post, which I linked in my first comment, in the comment section, Pastor Burke has some other arguments that are worth thinking about. I’m advocating a prayer life that reflects the balance we see in Scripture. That would be to be guided by the knowledge of God’s will.

    Here’s the link again for everyone’s convenience:


  6. Anvil
    January 15, 2010 at 11:16 am

    My answer to your question on other passages would be somewhat poisoned by having gone back and read your post on praying for the sick. My views would be similar to some of the comments posted — that given everything we see in scripture, it’s implied that we can pray about sickness, especially since we let our requests be made known to God. The only comment I have to make on your article is that I think your conclusion about Paul goes a little far — it’s not clear that God’s answer to Paul meant he shouldn’t ever pray for his sickness. It could have meant just that the answer at this time was ‘no’ because God had other things he wanted to show Paul and the people he ministered to.

    On your interpretation of the James passage, your understanding of “anoint,” is more or less what I’ve always heard and believed as well — that its function there is more medical than ceremonial. In that vein, I don’t believe my sister-in-law was “anointed” with oil by anyone. I know her pastor knows of her condition and I’m sure has prayed about it, both for her and with her, though I don’t know if he has done so in her home (she can and does still attend church regularly, so it’s not like the pastors would have to visit her to pray over her). I have heard of exactly what you describe being done, having the Pastor and other elders visit a severely ill person and do what is described in James. In that instance, the person was healed, though I don’t know if that action had anything to do with it, or if it was simply God’s will that the trial was over.

    Finally, even given the context, the KJV translators still chose the word “sick” rather than weak, so given I’m no Greek scholar, I give their views a lot of weight. It’s certainly possible that the torture and other things the early Christians would have experienced also resulted in such a weakened condition that sickness was able to gain a foothold. Since they didn’t really know viruses or other sickness-causing organisms work, they might not have considered sickness or “pestilence” as not being related to weakness due to injury or other reasons. We have had messages in our church as well about how to pray, also mentioning that many of our prayers are trivial and not how we are instructed to pray in scripture. The exhortations given on praying for the sick were somewhat similar to yours (it’s trivial to pray about some of the minor issues we think are so important), but still presented as proper, in the right circumstances, based both on Paul’s prayers about his condition as well as on James. That’s pretty much where I still am, and given what I now know about arthritis, I would be unlikely to consider it as much a trivial problem as I would a genuine thorn in the flesh. If God doesn’t see fit to take that away from my sister-in-law, then He has his reasons for making her go through it, but just as Christ prayed at the cross to have the cup pass from him, I still pray for her relief from this condition if He sees fit to grant it to her.

  7. January 16, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    Awesome post. I’m coming here a bit late, but I always had a question on a related point. Should we make a request just once, or ask for the same thing every day? (talking about specific requests, not the big general “thy will be done” prayers).

    I’ve often prayed and had prayer answered in the most amazing ways. But I normally don’t pray for the same specific thing more than once or twice. I mean, if God is good for it, He doesn’t need to be asked more than once, and I know He’s good for it. And maybe some weirdly superstitious fear of annoying Him by nagging too much. Anyway, that’s a habit I adopted very young, so I never really figured out if it was scriptural or not.

  8. January 16, 2010 at 11:17 pm


    Thanks for asking. Luke 11 is a great passage on asking more than once. Importunity is a prerequisite often for answered prayer. It’s a great passage and one I recommend people read. One of the prerequisites of prayer is “desire,” that is, it must be something we desire. I believe what we desire is often tested by importunity. If we don’t keep praying, we didn’t desire it.

    • January 17, 2010 at 5:14 pm

      Oh, very interesting! 11:8 in NIV used the word “boldness”, so I didn’t catch that nuance before. I just looked in American Standard, and it does indeed say “persistence”.

      Coincidentally, another person I follow happened to read through a passage on persistence just this morning: http://jasonchamberlain.blogspot.com/2010/01/fighting-through-rebuke.html

      Thanks for responding!

  9. January 22, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    In regards to some of the comments, the passage in James 5 is referring to sickness caused by chastisement, and when the sin(s) is repented of, God heals of the sickness.

    I really appreciate this article on the meaning of the word “filled” as used in the NT. I get tired of people saying that being filled with the Spirit is like a glass that is being gradually drained of liquid and needs to be topped up again by God. Too many take our wills out of the equation and make it seem that it is up to God to sovereignly fill us, and if He doesn’t we just have to wait longer. If I am not filled, it is not my fault… yada, yada. Yet, as you mentioned, the word means to be controlled/influenced by something – so our job is to submit to His leading according to His Word – as this passage in Colossians states, according to knowledge of His will.

  10. Bill M
    March 26, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    I have seen and felt the power of this prayer and know that it changes lives. Namely the person praying it, even while praying it for others. I encourage those who even wonder about how powerful such a prayer is, try it, be persistent and believe! Most of all, be receptive to His power and works as you are believing. You won’t miss his work all around you.

  11. Bob
    July 19, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Php 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in EVERY THING by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

    1Pe 5:7 Casting ALL your care upon him; for he careth for you

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