For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. (Colossians 1:9).
Have you ever prayed persistently for someone you love? Have you been so convinced of God's love for the person and confident in your prayer that you could say that you always pray and have not ceased to pray the same thing for them? That's what the Apostle Paul did as he interceded for the saints in Colossae. Paul's prayer request gives us insight into the rest of Paul's letter to a group of people he had never met, but loved dearly because of their response to the gospel.
Paul's Confidence in Prayer
Not many people are confident when it comes to prayer, and much less persistent in prayer because of it. That was not the case with Paul. In verses 3-8, we discover why Paul was so confident in prayer, and I think it will be encouraging to you.
Paul was confident of God's love for his readers. Why? Because he had heard from Epaphras of their "faith in Christ Jesus and their love for all the saints" (1:4). Both faith and love are evidences of God's grace, love, and redemptive purposes. Furthermore, Epaphras told him of the quality of their love when he reported of their love "in the Spirit" (1:8). Their love wasn't a natural love, but one that was Spirit-born.
Not only was Paul confident of God's love for them and their love for each other, but he was confident that they "understood the grace of God in truth" (1:6). Why did Paul add the words in truth? I think it is because there is a false grace. How can one tell if a person is under false grace and not true grace? The answer is clear in verse six: they were increasingly bearing fruit. "Just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth." Jesus taught the importance of fruit-bearing when He said,
You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit (Matthew 7:16-18).
People who boast of being under God's grace but fail to produce righteous fruit have a false idea of grace. In contrast, those who truly are under God's grace, bear fruit increasingly as they live according to the life of Christ within. Paul had heard that the gospel had born fruit in their lives, so he was confident that they understood God's grace in truth. Fruit-bearing is a sure sign of God's redemptive purpose for them.
Confidence in prayer also comes from knowing that you are praying a prayer that God is sure to answer, namely, that you are asking according to God's will. So we should not be surprised at Paul's confidence in praying always for the Colossians that they be filled with the knowledge of God's will. Can you imagine God not answering that prayer for people that He loves, has reconciled, rescued, redeemed, and qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light?
Paul's prayer that he never ceased to pray, and in fact always prayed for them was very simple and general: That they be filled with the knowledge of God's will. This raises a question in my mind. What is God's will that Paul wants them to know and be filled with? The great pastor and apostle answered this question in the rest of his letter to the Colossians. It is as if as he prayed that they be filled with the knowledge of God's will, he wanted them to know clearly what they needed to be filled with.
We can know God's will.
Someone made the comment to me recently that we can't really know God's will. If that were the case, then we know Paul wouldn't have prayed for it! Although I think they were thinking of all of God's will, there are some things that Paul wrote explicitly about God's will to the Colossians. As you read these things, think about how they would impact your life if you were filled to overflowing with these truths and therefore acted on what you knew to be God's will in every situation and relationship. Here's the first one Paul mentioned.
We need to be filled with the knowledge that it is God's will that Jesus Christ come to have first place in everything.
In verses 13-18 of Chapter 1, Paul declared Jesus' relationship to God, creation, and to the church that had been established by God for one purpose: namely, that He Himself will come to have first place in everything (1:18). Paul wanted them to know without a doubt that it was God's will that Jesus Christ, Himself, come to have first place in everything. He explained what putting Christ first would mean in their daily walk and in relationships in Chapters 2-3. Read these two chapters with this in mind, and they will make more sense. It means the same today for us! People who are not under grace in truth put themselves first in everything. Those under true grace make much of Jesus Christ and put Him first.
We need to be filled with the knowledge that it is God's will that all the fullness of God dwells in Jesus Christ.
For it was the Father's good pleasure [will] for all the fullness of God to dwell in Him (1:20). That's the next thing Paul meant when he prayed they would be filled with the knowledge of God's will. God has willed that everything He is be in His son, so in giving us His son, He was giving us all of His fullness. There is an interesting theme in the letter to the Colossians: emptiness of the world contrasted with fullness of Christ (2:8-9, 3:2-3). What do people who are of this world do when they are empty? They set their minds on things in the world (elementary principles) and the traditions of men rather than Christ. You can see this kind of lifestyle in those who claim to be under grace, but are under false grace. On the other hand, those who are under true grace also experience emptiness at times, but they seek to be filled through their relationship with Jesus Christ. Why? Because they have learned through the gospel that it is God's will that fullness in life comes through Jesus Christ alone.
It was because God's will is that all the fullness dwell in Christ that Paul purposed to present every man complete in Christ. He wrote:
We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me (Colossians 1:28-29).
For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority (Colossians 2:9-10).
Clearly when Paul prayed that they be filled with the knowledge of God's will, he had in mind that they needed to know that it was God's will they be complete in Christ alone. In Christ are "hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:2). When you need anything, do you run to Jesus Christ, Himself, so that He will have first place in everything in your life?
We need to be filled with the knowledge that it is God's will to reconcile all things to Himself through Jesus Christ.
Everything needed to be reconciled to God. Part of everything? All of your actions and words in this life. There is nothing you say or do that has any value to God unless it is offered through the finished work of Christ on the cross. After telling them it was God's will that Jesus Christ be first place in everything and that it pleased the Father for all the fullness to dwell in Christ, Paul wrote: "And through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven" (1:20). In addition to knowing God has reconciled all creation to Himself, you and I also need to be filled with the knowledge that it is God's will that everything we do be covered in the blood of Christ. It is His righteousness that makes the offerings of our words and actions acceptable to God. Only those under true grace refuse to boast in themselves and glory in the work of Jesus Christ.
We need to be filled with the knowledge that it is God's will that Jesus Christ in us be our hope of glory.
The Apostle wrote: "To whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). It is imperative that believers be filled with the knowledge that God has willed that the presence of Jesus Christ in you be your hope of glory. That is God's mystery which was hidden from past ages and generations, but was then being made known among the Gentiles. And God's still doing it! It is God's will, and you need to be filled with it, that the only hope in this life is to be found in the reality of a dynamic, loving relationship with Jesus Christ. Do you see evidence of the life of Christ in you? If so, then you have the greatest hope mankind can experience. Those under false grace hope in things and experiences in this life. Those under true grace have an eternal hope of glory which is later to be revealed. "When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory" (Colossians 3:4).
Can you see why Paul prayed this prayer without ceasing and always for the Colossians? If God revealed to them His will in Christ, it would transform the way they lived their lives. The same is true for you and me. May God fill you with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. I hope you will memorize these things that we know to be God's will, meditate on them, and pray them often for yourself and those you love.