And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. – Colossians 1:9-10 ESV
Sometimes my prayers can lack focus. Not only does my mind wander when I pray, but even in those moments when I successfully manage to give God my undivided attention, the content of my prayers can be all over the map. It can be hard to know what to pray. If I’m not careful, I can find my prayers becoming somewhat robotic and rote, making the same requests for the same individuals day after day. One of the things I like about the prayers of Paul found in his letters, is that they were focused prayers. He wasn’t distracted by external issues, but seemed to go straight to the heart of what was really necessary and needed. His prayers always seemed to be spiritually-focused, not materially-minded. In his own life he had learned the secret of contentment. “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13 ESV). He had learned to be content with Christ. Everything else that had at one time been so important to him – his career, his reputation, his financial status – had taken a backseat to his relationship with Christ. He wrote, “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8 NLT).
So when Paul prayed for others., he focused his prayers on their spiritual condition. He prayed that the believers in Colossae would be filled with a knowledge of God’s will. that would be the source of the spiritual wisdom and understanding they would need in their daily lives. And he knew that knowing God’s will was the key to their ability to live spiritually healthy lives. Knowing God’s will was going to be essential if they were going to live lives that were worthy of their calling as God’s children. We all know what we want to do. Our will is no secret to us. But God’s will can sometimes be difficult to discern. So Paul asked God to make His will known to those for whom he prayed. Why? Because Paul wanted them to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him.” He knew that their knowledge of God’s will and their willful obedience to it would produce fruitfulness. Jesus called it abiding. He told His disciples, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 ESV). To abide is to remain, to rest in and depend on, just like a branch does with the vine. It submits its will to the vine and allows the vine to produce fruit through it. Knowing God’s will and submitting to it is what makes us fruitful. It produces a life that is pleasing to God. A branch that refused to abide is useless. It loses its capacity for fruit-bearing. Failure to abide is when I determine to do my will instead of God’s. It’s when my agenda takes the place of His. Paul knew that was a danger for every believer. So he prayed that they would know the will of God and live according to it, so that they could bear fruit in every good work. Jesus said bearing fruit brings glory to God. “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8 ESV). But it requires abiding in Christ and a submissive obedience to the will of God.
And Paul prayed this prayer because he knew that, ultimately, knowledge of and obedience to the will of God produces a growing awareness of who God is. If we know God’s will and obey it, we will develop a deeper intimacy with Him. Not only will we grow in our knowledge of His will, we will grow in our knowledge of Him. “All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better” (Colossians 1:10 NLT). Knowing God is the objective. He wants us to know Him better. He wants to reveal Himself to us. He wants to deepen the relationship between He and us. That is the essence of what it means to have eternal life. Jesus Himself said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:5 ESV). The apostle john wrote, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20 ESV). Jesus Christ has made God known to us. He has made it possible for us to know God, the one true god. But that knowledge is to increase daily. As we learn His will, we get exposed to His heart, His nature, and His incredible love for man. As we live within His will, we discover just how faithful, true, trustworthy, loving, wise, and powerful He really is. And like Paul, we learn to say, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”