Paul’s powerful prayer for the believers in Colossae


After affirming his thankfulness to God for revealing the Gospel of “ truth” and praising the church in Colossae’s founder, Epaphras, calling him “our beloved fellow servant…a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf…”, Paul assures the Colossian church that, “..from the day we heard of you, we have not ceased to pray for you…”. Paul then launches into a powerful prayer over the Church.


  1. F. D. Moule writes, “Paul’s prayer makes two great requests: It asks for the discernment of God’s will and then for the power to perform that will.”


Paul’s prayer, which runs from verse 9 to verse 14 of the 1st Chapter of Colossians, is a powerfully succinct summary of who we should aspire to be in Christ. Because of the richness of the concepts contained in the prayer, we are going to break the prayer down into three studies. The first portion we will look at today.

“…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 1:9b – 10

Before we tackle the concept of how to, “…be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,…”, let’s first consider the biblical meaning for the words translated here as “knowledge” and “wisdom”. Is the meaning of these two words essentially the same and the use of both of the words in this passage for emphasis only, or are they diverse in meaning?

The GREEK word translated as “knowledge” in this passage is ‘epignosis‘ (‘recognition’ or ‘discernment’), while the GREEK word translated as “wisdom” is ‘sophia‘ (which in the natural sense the word means -‘practical wisdom’; ‘natural & moral insight’; ‘enlightened understanding through the cultivation of the mind’, while in the biblical sense, it is translated as, ‘the divine gift of deep understanding, including the idea of practical application’; ‘divine wisdom’). So what is the difference between the concepts of ‘knowledge’ and ‘wisdom’ as used in the Bible?

C H Spurgeon said that “Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.“

That pretty much sums it up. But, can we really discern God’s will for our lives? And, if so, how?

The Bible clearly encourages us that we can, indeed should discern God’s will for our lives, both His will for us as members of the ‘catholic’ church and also for our lives individually. O.K. I sense that you all jumped involuntarily at my use of the word ‘catholic’ in the previous sentence. Calm down now, the word ‘catholic’ simply means ‘universal’, it has nothing to do with the Roman Catholic church Really what we are saying is that the will of God for our lives is really not about ourselves and our personal ‘destiny’ or ‘purpose’, but all about how our lives fit within the corporate body of Christ, and serve to advance His kingdom on the earth so that, “…the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14)

From this perspective, we are to discern and have knowledge of God’s purpose and design for our lives, as we are incorporated into His body on the earth. But, how do we do that? Below are 7 steps to discerning the specific will of God for your life and reinforcing how His specific will for you is always within the context of a symbiotic relationship with His body.

ABIDE IN CHRIST – First and foremost intimacy with God is the founding principal of Christian life. Without a vibrant and growing intimacy with the Father & the Son through the Holy Spirit, our spiritual lives will always remain in constant flux and uncertainty.

“Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me” (John 15:4)

SURRENDER YOUR WILL TO GOD – We must recognize that all the ambitions, dreams and plans that we hold onto in our own heart may prevent us from discerning the true will of God for our lives. ‘Self will’ most often opposes ‘God’s will’ & we must first learn to set aside our own will in order to allow ourselves to be fully persuaded by God’s will for our lives. “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21) “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12: 1 – 2)

OBEY WHAT YOU ALREADY KNOW TO BE GOD’S WILL FOR YOUR LIFE – A simple first step is to revisit what the Bible says about our calling in Christ. Are we living out that calling? Here are some helpful verses that describe YOUR Biblical calling:

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace.” (2 Timothy 1:9)

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” (Colossians 5:13) – The next calling of God on our lives, according to the Bible, isn’t preached too often in America…

“…if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.” (2 Peter 2:20 – 21)

“For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7)

SPEND TIME JUST LISTENING FOR HIS VOICE – How often do we spend time just sitting in His presence & listening for the voice of the Holy Spirit. Two of my favorite Scriptures speak to this concept:

“Be still, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) If we will but be still & wait, if we will put aside all distractions & competing noise we will hear the “still, small voice” of our Master, who speaks as clearly to each of us in those moments of quiet, abiding intimacy, as He did to the prophets of old.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (Isaiah 30:21)

GROW IN INTIMACY WITH HIM – All else in the Christian life pales to insignificance when compared to abiding in intimacy with our Lord. All ministry, outreach, good works, sacrifice, faith or even holiness, has no basis or reward outside of an ever developing intimacy with the Father, through Jesus, His Son and His Holy Spirit. It is from this foundation that are spiritual lives are to be built and our calling and destiny fulfilled. Oswald Chambers put it this way, “God’s call is for you to be His faithful friend & partner, for whatever purpose He has for your life.”

TAKE A PERSONAL INVENTORY OF GOD’S GIFTINGS IN YOUR OWN LIFE – We have all been given gifts & talents, no matter how small & insignificant they may appear, that can be used mightily by God in the kingdom. Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the 5,000 men (not including woman & children), recorded in all four Gospels, was precipitated we are told in the Gospel of John, by a young boy offering the disciples use of his meager lunch of five small barley loaves and two small fish. Andrew, one of the Lord’s disciples, questioned the sufficiency of this offering as a solution. Jesus, however, took this small offering and blessed it & multiplied it, so that at the end when the crowd numbering perhaps ten to fifteen thousand people had finished eating , twelve baskets of fragments of the barley loaves were gathered. Interestingly enough, in Biblical numerology twelve is the product of 3 (the perfectly Divine and heavenly number) and 4 (the earthly, the number of what is material and organic). Also, have you ever wondered why it was only the fragments of the barley loaves that were gathered up afterwards & not leftover fish? Perhaps, because later in the same chapter of the gospel of John, Jesus declares Himself, the ‘Bread of life’?

STEP OUT IN FAITH – There comes a time, the ‘kairos‘ (‘appointed’) time in each of our lives that we must decide to act on what we believe God has revealed to us about our specific calling within the body of Christ. Even if it is not perfectly clear – “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) – we are to step out in faith. There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a step“. William Bradford (an English Puritan separatist in the 16th century) is quoted as saying, “Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and, as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many.”

Be encouraged, God has promised to guide us this path of life, and Jesus has shown us the Way and assures us that by the Holy Spirit, He will never leave us, or forsake us, giving us guidance & direction, as each of us, like Christian in the John Bunyan’s allegorical tale, “The Pilgrim’s Progress” seek the way to the ‘Celestial City’.

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look;

ask for the ancient paths,

ask where the good way is, and walk in it,

and you will find rest for your souls.‘” (Jeremiah 6:16)

Posted on March 10, 2019Leave a comment on Paul’s powerful prayer for the believers in Colossae

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