Stop the BB’s!

No, this is not a rant against BB guns. :P I was reading in Colossians 1 this morning, and I learned something that was a blessing to me, and since the point of this blog is to share what I’m learning (manthano – i am learning) I thought I would share it.

In one of my undergrad classes, an adjunct teacher (who happens to be a pastor), challenged us that our prayers for others should be more than “BB” prayers. What’s a “BB” prayer, you ask? You know, “bless ‘em, be with ‘em.”1 So if we aren’t to pray “BB” prayers, how should we pray for other believers? In Colossians 1 where I was reading this morning, Paul recounts how he prayed for the Colossians. So let’s look at his prayer, and perhaps use it as a model to frame our prayers for brothers and sisters in Christ. [Ok, so maybe I’ve lapsed into preaching.. too bad, Bible majors are prone to do that :) ] There are a lot of references in the rest of this post, but you should just be able to hover over them and they should show up in a little box.

Paul tells the Colossians that he began his prayer with thanksgiving for two specific things about the Colossians (Col. 1:3). In Col. 1:4-6, he tells them that he is thankful for their faith in Christ, that is, their salvation, and also for the evidence of that salvation. The primary evidence is their love to all the saints or other believers, but it also shows itself in their hope of heaven (Col. 1:5) and the work of the gospel in their lives in bearing fruit. So in applying Paul’s prayer, when we pray for other believers we should thank God for their salvation and the evidence we see of that salvation, again, primarily love toward other believers (John 13:35; 1 John 4:7-8, etc.). But also their expectancy of heaven, or as it’s often put, their “living in light of eternity” and the fruit that has appeared in their lives through the power of the gospel.

Col. 1:7-8 are kind of a parenthesis while Paul expresses his appreciation for the ministry of Epaphras in presenting the gospel to them originally. (Remember, Paul has never visited the Colossian church.) He only knows about them through their pastor Epaphras whom he’s met there in prison.

Paul continues the recounting of His prayer in Col. 1:9, this time focusing on the requests he has made to God for them. In Col. 1:9-14 there appear to be four primary requests. The first request is that they might be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, or in other words that they might know God’s will. This is not necessarily talking about what might be called the future will of God (things like who am I going to marry, where will I go to college, what ministry does God want me to have, etc.) although it certainly applies, but I believe Paul is more specifically referring to the present will of God. He’s referring to things like abstinence from immorality (1 Thess. 4:13), refusing to conform to the world (Rom. 12:2), serving God wholeheartedly (Eph. 6:6), counseling believers, not taking vengeance, following what is good, always rejoicing, always praying, giving thanks for everything, being sensitive to the Spirit, having a good attitude toward preaching, being discerning, not doing anything that might look like evil (1 Thess. 5:14-22), submitting to every ordinance of man (1 Pet. 2:13-15), possibly enduring suffering (1 Pet. 3:17; 1 Pet. 4:19), and not living to please self (1 Pet. 4:2). And this list isn’t exhaustive by any means.

Paul’s second request is not only that they would know God’s will but also that they would obey it, or “walk worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:10). He gives three ways they can do that. One, do what fully pleases God. What is pleasing to God? A couple quick examples are obeying parents (Col. 3:20) and sacrificial giving (Phil. 4:18), but there are many more. Two, bear fruit through good works. We know what fruit is. The Bible tells us of the Spirit in Gal. 5:22-23 and the essential virtues of the Christ-centered life in 2 Peter 1:5-8 (hmm… somebody ought to write a book about that…). And it’s through their works that they demonstrate that fruit. Three, increase in their knowledge of God, or as I often put it, grow in their relationship with God.

But how are they or anyone else going to do all this? Paul’s third request — that they might be strengthened with His glorious power. Obviously they can’t obey God’s will, do what pleases Him on their own (Phil. 2:13). And this glorious power has some side benefits, you might say. It results in joyful patience and endurance. When they know that it’s God doing it, and not them, they don’t have to worry about it, which bring joy rather than frustration. They can patiently endure because they know He is in control and will accomplish His will in His time.

Paul’s final request is that the Colossians might also give thanks to the Father for what He has done in their lives. Paul mentions 3 specific things that they should give thanks for: their eternal inheritance (Col 1:12), their deliverance from the realm of darkness and deliverance to the realm of the Son (Col. 1:13), and their redemption and forgiveness (Col. 1:14). We are to pray that other believers would be thankful that God has given them a home in heaven, that He has delivered them from Satan and delivered them to His Son, and that through His Son He has redeemed and forgiven them.

A lot better than “bless ‘em and be with ‘em.” :) Here’s a brief outline of Paul’s prayer.

Thank You for… (Col. 1:4-6)
saving them (v. 4a)
the evidence I see of Your saving them (v. 4b-6)
love for others (v. 4b)
hope of heaven (v. 5a)
the gospel bearing fruit (v. 5b-6)
Help them to… (Col. 1:9-14)
Know Your will (Col. 1:9)
Obey Your will (Col. 1:10)
by doing what pleases You
by bearing fruit
by growing in their relationship with You
Depend on your strength that produces joyful patience and endurance (Col. 1:11)
Thank You (Col. 1:12-14)
for their home in heaven (Col. 1:12)
for their deliverance from Satan and deliverance to Your Son (Col. 1:13)
for their redemption and forgiveness (Col. 1:14)

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