A little over a year ago, our pastor preached a two-part sermon called Prayer Worthy Of An Apostle, which he based on Colossians 1:9-11:
9 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, 10 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. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, (ESV)
The Lord has used that sermon to change the way I pray for people. Fewer of my prayers center on temporal matters as I concentrate more on asking the Lord to help people grow in spiritual knowledge that they can apply to their lives.
I thought about that sermon again yesterday. I wish I could remember what blog post it was, but the chaos of my husband’s power wheelchair breaking down (and the ensuing repercussions) have turned my mind to mush. Nevertheless, the blogger pretty much echoed my pastor’s point that present day prayers tend to remain surface-level rather than penetrating to the eternal matters that God cares about.
Don’t misunderstand: I appreciate everyone who prayed for John’s wheelchair situation this week. Such prayers fall under the category of “give us this day our daily bread,” since he depends on that chair to perform basic tasks without assistance. Yet how many people prayed that the Holy Spirit would use the trial to work on John’s character and on my character? I made a few attempts at doing so, but I should have done better.
As Bible-believing Christians, we understand (at least we should understand) that God ultimately cares about conforming us to His holiness. As a result, He often puts us through difficult situations to train us to reflect Him (see James 1:2-4 and 1 Peter 1:3-9 for examples). Evidently the apostles believed in praying for more than temporal matters. They knew that this present life passes swiftly, so they prayed for things that would endure in God’s eternal kingdom.
Deep prayer is not about mystical experiences, as many evangelical teachers want us to believe. We’ll discuss the error of contemplative prayer in future essays, undoubtedly. But deep prayer certainly does mean that we must push beyond asking for things that fade away with this life and also pray for each other to cultivate the qualities that honor the Lord Jesus Christ now and that will glorify Him in heaven.
After 45 years of being influenced by a “consumer” approach to the Lord, I realize that He is less concerned with adjusting our circumstances than He is with building godly character. I know I easily attest to His priorities now, when much of my life goes relatively according to my wishes. But I hope people pray the same things for me that I am learning to pray for them. As much as my flesh still wants God to do my bidding, I see how that attitude perverts my relationship with Him by mistaking Him for the servant that He calls me to be.