WHAT DO WE PRAY FOR?
By Pastor Paulus Budiono
Johor, Sunday, February 24, 2019
Shalom, When we take a closer look at the spiritual songs that we sing, the lyrics typically depict adoration, testimonies to who God is, prayer requests and gratitude to Him.
According to the pattern of the Tabernacle, the Letter to the Colossians refers to the Altar of Incense. What did the Apostle Paul say in his prayer that he wrote in his letter to the Colossians? Colossian 1:9-12 write, “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” Is it true that we only pray at prayer meetings on Tuesdays? To get in-depth knowledge of the Bible, do we attend the Bible Studies on Fridays and the Sunday services meant for evangelistic meetings? If so, why does the Letter to the Colossians include teachings, evangelism and prayers? How did the early church live? They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowships, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42). In other words, we must not extremely sort out the forms and kinds of services. For example, prayer meetings should not include sermons, etc. We must grow to full maturity. Therefore, prayers, teaching and evangelism can take place without regard to time and place. When reading a letter of several pages, we still remember the first page even though we have finished the second, right? Or do we only read the pages telling good news and skip the ones sharing less / not interesting things? If so, we will never get a complete message from the letter. Similarly, when reading some verses in the Bible, we must read the whole chapter (the previous and following verses) so that we can understand the meaning and purpose of God’s message for us. Don’t make worship / services so tight and rigid that they tend to be traditional or religious rituals instead of living worship. After all, don't go too far deviating from the truth by cherry-picking verses. What did the Apostle Paul and Timothy say in his letter in Colossians 1: 9-12? "Since we heard about you". The word "since" implies the beginning when the Apostle Paul heard about the congregation in Colosse. Paul had never met them face to face but sent Epaphras to evangelize them. Together with Timothy, Paul listened to Epaphras' report about the condition of the Colossians. To find out whether Epaphras was trustworthy, (the old) Paul and (the young) Timothy evaluated his report. And Epaphras proved to be reliable. The name Epaphras is only mentioned twice in the Bible (Colossians 1: 7; Philippi 23); this does not mean he is neglected. Note that pastors in the past
suffered a lot of persecution and they were even imprisoned. But today pastors are adored in such a way that congregations admire their pastors more than the Word. Throughout the four–chaptered Letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul mentioned the word prayer four times in the following verses:
Colossians 1:3-4, “We [Paul and Timothy] always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people.” Hearing of the conditions of the Colossians’ faith and love, Paul and Timothy said a prayer of thanksgiving. Application: God's servants and full-timers must care and pray for the conditions of their congregant’s faith and love as well.
Colossians 1:9, “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,” The second prayer did not go as far as thanksgiving but it suggested an increase. We must pray without ceasing irrespective of age and our prayers must have a vision and mission to keep them meaningful and 'fresh'. Aaron burned the fragrant incense the whole day or around the clock, didn’t he (Exodus 30: 7-8)? Like the breath of life, prayer never stops even for a moment. The prayers we say without ceasing should be new every day. Just for an illustration: We have been breathing since we were born, going through different conditions. Our experiences in our childhood, teenage years, married lives and old days are definitely different. These experiences should promote and keep our prayers consistent and purposeful. Why did the Colossian church (and we) have to pray seriously and unceasingly? Besides faith, love, and hope, they had to (and we have to) receive the true wisdom and understanding. Otherwise, they would (and we will) show the tendency to believe in any wisdom other than God’s. Beware of the wisdom and philosophy of the world that keep men away from God! Ironically, can sinners save mankind by way of human wisdom? The world's philosophy eventually rejects God, the Creator, making humans become atheists. Paul and Timothy itensified their prayers asking God to help the Colossians reject the world philosophies. Theology students should not study philosophy and doubt the Bible in the end! Keep your heart wide open to understand that there is no other book like the Bible because God is wisdom and Christ is the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24). The absolute and true wisdom is the Word of God. Jesus himself says, "I am the truth" (John 14: 6). Introspection: How do we pray? Do we always ask for God's blessings (health, intelligence, wealth, etc.)? Doesn't our Heavenly Father know our needs? We are asked to seek God's Kingdom first and its righteousness. Then what we need will be provided (Matthew 6: 32-33). We do not live for the visible and mortal things, but rather for the invisible and eternal matters.
Colossians 4:2-4, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains” Paul and Timothy finally asked Tychicus to bring a letter to the congegaration in Colosse because Epaphras could not make it. Probably, he was imprisoned along with Paul (cf. Philemon 1:23). Paul and Timothy taught the church to pray with a vision and mission. After Jesus ascended to heaven, His disciples went to Jerusalem as their Master told them. They waited there until they gained power and became His witnesses in Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1: 4, 8). Having a vision and mission, they persevered in prayer. What did they pray for? Instead of praying for physical matters, they prayed to obtain the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus. In the case of present-day congregations, believers claim that they have received the Holy Spirit and can speak in tongues, but do not persevere in prayer. Obviously, prayers must be intesified and have a vision and mission – from giving thanks to accepting all the truth. After accepting all the truth, we must share this truth with others. Pastors and congregations should not pray for their own needs. For example, praying for funds to build or renovate their churches, etc. In fact, many believers first prayed and built their church with faith. When the church had turned into a mega church overflowing with members, the church split. Besides advising the Colossians to persevere in prayer and stay on guard, Paul and Timothy asked the congregation to pray for them and their fellow workers (Tychicus, Epaphras and others) so that God would open the door to the preaching of the gospel of Christ. That means that there are some places where people have not yet opened the doors of their hearts to accept the secret of Christ in their lives. In preaching the gospel of Christ, God's servants face many challenges. So, they need prayer supports (not just funds) so that they may even dare to face death. Wasn’t it because of preaching the secret of Christ that Paul was jailed? The truth is that only few people have the courage to face the door that the Lord has opened because the door is narrow and the way that leads to life is difficult (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus is the door to salvation (John 10: 9). The (the old) Apostle Paul and (the young) Timothy asked the Colossians to pray for them because Paul knew that Timothy was not a strong, young man. Due to Timothy’s weaknesses, Paul encouraged him not to be afraid but to be patient in suffering and to finish off the tasks of his ministry (2 Timothy 4:5). It is note worthy that the more intensely we improve the quality of our prayers, the greater the challenges and pressures that attack us. Don't make false compromises for the sake of fake peace!
Colossians 4:12-13,“Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.”
This time Epaphras from Colosse (personally) persevered in praying for the entire Colossian church. (The old, senior) Paul testified about Epaphras, his workman who worked hard (not lazy) not only to serve for the Colossians but to reach out to the churches in Laodicea and Hierapolis. Application: God's servants from different generations (senior and junior) can work together in the ministry (because of the same faith) even though they must suffer (in terms of flesh). Elderly servants of God should not shun the ministry by reason of need of rest. Didn’t Paul suffer in prison in his old age? Yet, he did not keep idle but busy writing letters to churches? Timothy and the young Epaphras also suffered in prison but they did not back off their ministries. STTIA students should pray for the communities where they come from, rather than struggling for their own spiritual progress. Old and young servants of the Lord should work shoulder to shoulder to keep the congregants growing to spiritual maturity so that their faith will not easily get shaken by winds of false teachings (Ephesians 4: 13-14). Before leaving Ephesus, the Apostle Paul reminded the elders to shepherd the flock (the church) which belonged to Jesus and had been redeemed by His blood. Why? Because the violent 'wolf' was ready to break in to destroy the unity in the church and the provocators among the insiders wanted to destroy the church (Acts 20: 28-30). Applications: The church must be ready to repel the devil’s attacks (from outside) and instigators (from inside) who are trying to divide the church. For that reason, it takes spiritual maturity that requires Bible reading and a fellowship with each other without favoritism. Didn’t God create hands, feet and other different body parts to complement each other for the sake of mutual needs? Let’s grow mature spiritually so that our prayers may also grow and get promoted in terms of quality. We may begin with requests in our prayers. Later we give thanks as we pray. Then, we pray for the preaching of the gospel of Christ. Over time, we say our prayers to ward off enemies – outsiders and insiders alike – who try to destroy the unity in the Body of Christ. Be assured that God takes great delight in such prayers. Amen.