The apostle Paul was an
He began each of his
letters with a prayer of thanksgiving and a petition
for the recipients of his letters.
One of the most
enlightening Bible studies is to take the recorded
prayers of Paul and study them. They also make great
petitions for our own Christian prayer life. Indeed,
we can learn to pray a more meaningful prayer life
by letting the apostle Paul be our model. We can
grow in our spiritual life by praying Scripture
thoughts and petitions to God.
Paul’s letter to the
believers at Colossae begins with a prayer of
thanksgiving and blends into several petitions for
these Christians. With the exception of the letter
to Galatians Paul begins each letter with
thanksgiving and praise to God for what he is doing
in the churches and individuals lives. We gain
insight into his prayer life. This is the kind of
person you want to be around.
PAUL’S PRAYER OF
Paul begins his prayer
with thanksgiving to God the Father. "We give thanks
to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying
always for you" (Colossians 1:3).
Paul’s song of
thanksgiving runs though out the letter (Colossians
1:3, 12; 2:7; 3:15-17; 4:2). It expressed his
attitude toward God and other believers. He was
dependent upon God for everything in his life. He
Give thanks to the
The plural "we" can be
epistolary plural like, "I thank" or it can be a
real plural with the idea of "Timothy and I thank
God." Keep in mind the author of the letter is Paul,
not Paul and Timothy.
Paul was a team player.
He never fails to find people and provisions of God
for which to praise Him. Every time he prayed he
remembered the churches with whom he ministered.
The adverb "always" can
go with "we give thanks" as "We always give thanks
to God, the Father . . . when we pray for you"
(NET). It can also be associated with "we
pray" as "We give thanks to God . . . praying always
for you" (NASB). He gives thanks constantly,
"praying always for you."
His praying is present
tense pointing to the fact that he repeatedly prays
for these believers. It was his life style. He was
persistent in his prayer life. "Always," "give
thanks" and "praying" are in the present continuous
tense in the original language. He prayed without
He could be referring to
his daily devotion as his reflection on the great
provisions and promises of God for His people, and
the needs of the churches. Did he have in mind the
Jewish practice of praying three times a day as seen
in the life of the prophet Daniel and John and Peter
(Dan. 6:11; Acts 3:1)? Every day he prayed for those
who had turned their lives over to Christ. The
apostle could also have in mind his prayer life as
he walked on journeys or making tents or throughout
the day in his house imprisonment in Rome. Can you
imagine the impact of Paul’s prayers upon the pagan
Roman soldier attached to the other end of his
chain? One of best times to pray is while you are
walking, riding in your car, or working at a task.
Prayer is not limited to a formal bowing your head
and closing your eyes. For Paul the important thing
was consistency. He was doing it at every
opportunity. It was part of his life style.
His thanksgiving was
address "to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ" (Col. 1:3). God has revealed Himself
personally and fully in the person of His eternal
Son. No one else can better reveal God than His own
unique one of a kind Son. He knows the Father’s
eternal purpose better than anyone else. Paul has
absolute confidence in the total deity of Christ and
His perfect humanity.
Reasons for Paul’s
To the Corinthian church
Paul wrote, "For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine
out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our
hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the
glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this
treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing
greatness of the power will be of God and not from
ourselves" (2 Corinthians 4:6-7).
God was at work in
his life and in the church.
1. He thanks God
for the testimony of the believers at Colossae.
He has been praying for
them "since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus
and the love which you have for all the saints"
(Col. 1:4). Paul heard from Epaphras about their
faith in Christ. He had never been to Colossae (Col.
2:1-2). He praised God for the report from Epaphras
about their love, faith and hope.
No doubt the word "faith"
in verse four refers to the initial trust in the
person and finished saving work of Jesus Christ.
They have a saving relationship with God because of
Christ. A person is not a Christian because they
have faith; they are Christians because they have
faith "in Christ" Jesus. Christ is the object of
their faith. He is the one who saves. The sphere in
which their faith resided was Christ.
He praised God because
they had heard the gospel and put their faith in
Christ as their Savior. He rejoiced over the
demonstration of God’s grace in their lives. They
have been born again and were continuing in their
walk with Christ. Paul breaks forth with
thanksgiving to God for them. Their faith pictured
the initial act of trusting in Christ for eternal
life. But they also had a living personal faith in
Christ moment by moment. Their faith resided in
Christ. Their faith rested in Christ. It was like an
anchor on the bottom of the ocean.
You and I can give praise
today for our own salvation. Thank God we have been
born again. But we can also give praise to God for
the salvation of family members, and the members of
our church who have experienced God’s saving grace.
2. Paul thanks God
for their love for all the saints (v. 4b).
They love one another
with a sacrificial love. Paul has heard about "the
love which you have for all the saints" (Col. 4:4b).
This love in the heart of
the Colossians was being expressed toward all the
saints. It was to all the saints without exception.
It was a consistent communion of the saints. It was
an all embracing fellowship.
Paul rejoiced over this
continuing demonstration of their self-sacrificing
love for one another.
3. Paul gives
thanks to God for the "hope laid up for you in
heaven" (v. 5a).
They heard the gospel of
truth and received eternal life. We can give thanks
to God for our own salvation and for the many who
have come to Christ all over the world. Paul gives
thanks to God the Father "because of the hope laid
up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard
in the word of truth, the gospel" (Colossians 1:5).
The gospel of Jesus
Christ is good news. Anytime we preach the gospel we
bring good news of God’s saving grace in Jesus
Christ that will save you, forgive you of all your
sins, and give you eternal life.
It is the gospel of truth
which is the essence of the gospel based on the
historical facts of the birth, life death,
resurrection and ascension of Christ.
What will you do with
Jesus Christ? The apostle Peter finished up one of
his great sermons saying, "And there is salvation in
no one else; for there is no other name under heaven
that has been given among men by which we must be
saved" (Acts 4:12). Jesus told His disciples, "I am
the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes
to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6).
This was not the
exclusive hope of the false teachers who were trying
to lead the believers in Christ astray. The good
news of Jesus Christ and His saving grace is for all
men and women everywhere.
Our "hope" is stored up,
put away for one’s use. It is a present hope
centered in Christ (Col. 1:27). Nothing can touch
this hope because Paul says the place of storage is
heaven where God the Father is presently. It is
safe; it is secure; it is protected. The word was
originally used for storing up supplies for faithful
servants of the Persian rulers. These Christians had
heard the word of truth before they heard the false
teachings. They have a confident expectation or
prospect of eternal life with God the Father. It is
a hope that "is laid up for you in heaven."
The apostle Peter wrote:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused
us to be born again to a living hope through the
resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to
obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and
undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven
for you, who are protected by the power of God
through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed
in the last time" (1 Peter 1:3-5). This blessed hope
is a living, imperishable, undefiled, unfading hope
through the resurrection of Christ. Talk about
eternal security. This hope is kept by the power of
4. Paul gives
thanks to God for the gospel that has been preached
in the entire world (v. 6).
The message of salvation
"which has come to you, 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" (Col. 1:6). "Bearing fruit and growing"
emphasizes the continuous activity of the gospel due
to its inherent power. God is at work in the gospel
of Jesus Christ. This good news has an inherent
power. It transforms and empowers lives. It changes
life from the inside out. Paul stresses the inward
bearing of fruit and the outward growing activity of
The Word of God is
constantly bearing fruit and increasing in their
lives and everywhere else it is preached. The idea
is to grow, to increase, and to develop. It is the
outward expansion of the personal inner working of
the truth of God in Christ Jesus. This fruitfulness
and spiritual growth began on the day they heard the
gospel and trust in Christ. Paul wrote to the
Philippians about the same time, "in view of your
participation in the gospel from the first day until
now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He
who began a good work in you will perfect it until
the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:5-6).
He praises God because
his readers have experienced God’s saving grace. In
the mind of Paul grace is a synonym for the gospel.
He preached "the gospel of the grace of God." It is
absolutely free, unmerited favor of God to those who
can never deserve or earn it by any virtue or thing
they do. It is always undeserved. The sinner never
gets what he deserves! "The wages of sin is death .
. ." "The free gift of God is eternal life in
Jesus Christ our Lord."
5. He thanks God
for the faithful pastor Epaphras (v. 7).
"You learned it from
Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a
faithful servant of Christ on our behalf" (Col.
1:7). Epaphras brought the gospel of the city of
Paul described this
faithful servant of God as "beloved fellow
bond-servant." That is a powerful description of
fellowship and inclusion. Paul was not protecting
his little kingdom as some do. You would never find
him stealing sheep. Here is a bond of love among
In the Old Testament the
highest compliment you could give was "servant of
Yahweh." The prophets were God’s servants. Christian
pastors fit into that same class of servants of God.
Paul uses one of his favorite terms, "bond-servant"
(doulos). He is a "beloved fellow
bond-servant." The stress is on relationship and
attitude to Christ. A bond-slave or bond-servant is
someone who was owned by another and so completely
that he was dependent upon his master for everything
in life. Epaphras was in submission to the will of
God. His life was controlled by Him. He no longer
owned his life; he had been bought with a price, the
precious blood of Jesus Christ.
"Beloved" is one
who is loved by God.
Epaphras is one of Paul’s
co-laborers. He is a "faithful servant of Christ on
our behalf." At the end of his letter, Paul
tells us about the group that is with him in Rome.
"As to all my affairs, Tychicus, our beloved brother
and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the
Lord, will bring you information. For I have sent
him to you for this very purpose, that you may know
about our circumstances and that he may encourage
your hearts; and with him Onesimus, our faithful and
beloved brother, who is one of your number. They
will inform you about the whole situation here.
Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his
greetings; and also Barnabas’s cousin Mark (about
whom you received instructions; if he comes to you,
welcome him); and also Jesus who is called Justus;
these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of
God who are from the circumcision, and they have
proved to be an encouragement to me. Epaphras, who
is one of your number, a bond-slave of Jesus Christ,
sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly
for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect
and fully assured in all the will of God"
(Colossians 4:7-12). The apostle was always
surrounding himself with men and women like these.
They were all faithful bond-servants of Christ
We have an eternal weight
of glory far beyond all comparison awaiting us in
6. Paul gives
thanks for the Spirit inspired love in their lives
The ministry of the Holy
Spirit is to work in our lives in such a way that we
love one another sacrificially the way God has loved
us. This is a Holy Spirit inspired love. He has done
a good work in their lives. In fact, He changes
The love expressed is His
work in the Christian. Love is the expression of
their relationship with the Holy Spirit. Our task is
to provide the tools and the spiritual environment
in which every believer can live a
Spirit-controlled, Christ-centered Christian life.
It is interesting that
this is the only reference to the Holy Spirit in
this letter. In this letter Paul ascribed the work
of God that normally is associated with the Holy
Spirit to Christ.
The expression of
thanksgiving moves into specific petitions for these
believers. Thanksgiving is an excellent way to begin
our prayers from a grateful heart. After we have
expressed our thanksgiving to Him we can readily
begin making our petitions for His blessings on the
spiritual needs of others.
PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS
When you are saved by
grace through faith you want to tell the whole world
about your most valued person.
Will you take a few
minutes today and tell a friend, a neighbor or a
relative what Jesus Christ means to you? Share with
him or her your testimony of what your life was like
before you trusted in Christ. Tell them when you put
your faith in Christ alone to save you, and then
share the change Christ has made in your life. The
important thing is to keep the focus on Christ.
People in our day believe in a lot of false gospels
which cannot save; they need to hear the truth in
Christ Jesus. Because we are in possession of the
gospel we are under obligation to share it.
When you are saved by
grace your heart is filled with thanksgiving.
Even on the most
difficult days you can find things to praise and
give thanks to God. Paul was in a Roman prison
awaiting a decision from demented Nero, but he could
praise God for His abundant provision of friends,
saving grace, and the missionary movement across the
When your heart is filled
with thanksgiving and praise you will spend time in
prayer daily. You will have a regularly scheduled
time of prayer. You will also sense the need to pray
spontaneously as the need arises. Anytime, anyplace
regardless of the situation we can go to the throne
of God in prayer. You can ask God for wisdom in a
difficult situation. You can ask for His strength
when facing a temptation. You can ask for his
sustaining grace to see you through a stressful
moment. We can be filled with praise and
thanksgiving throughout the day. We can silently
call upon his name in the classroom, courtroom, or
corporate office. There is also the time to pray
with brothers and sisters in Christ as we seek His
face together in worship and in service.
When you are a servant
leader you encourage your co-laborers.
For Paul it was never I
win – you loose. It was never a looking out for #1.
You would never find him playing one person or group
Servant leaders look for
opportunities to encourage and praise another
person’s work and ministry.
When you keep your focus
on Jesus Christ you gain the respect to be heard
when a word of correction is called for.
Does a man’s message line
up with the Word of God? Is he preaching or teaching
his own private truth or is he preaching the
objective truth about Christ? Is he teaching factual
statements about spiritual reality? Everyone is
entitled to their own private opinions, but there is
no such thing as private truth.
Sure the apostle had to
correct the errors of teaching, but he did it in a
firm, focused conviction about the person and work
of Jesus Christ.
Paul focused his energies
on Jesus Christ. In this great letter we find Paul’s
greatest statements about who Jesus Christ is.
comes through growing in the will of God by knowing
the Word of God.
Are you a partaker in the
inheritance of the saints? It comes only through an
intimate love relationship with Jesus Christ.