II. Paul’s prayer was specific.
A second characteristic of Paul’s prayer for the Colossians is that it was specific. Paul says that in his unceasing prayer he as been “asking” for specific requests. Really, the verse at this point should be translated: “we do not cease praying and asking.” The two words, “praying and asking”, refer to the same concept, but they present slightly different aspects. Praying is that action of prayer, or just prayer in general. Asking is the specific content or request Paul had in his prayers. In other words, it wasn’t just that Paul mentioned their names in his prayers (like my young daughter might do as she prays for individuals). Paul had specific requests in mind for these believers. This is a reminder that prayer is not a mystical grocery list; we don’t just say people’s names and things happen. God uses our specific prayers on behalf of fellow believers.
It is also interesting to note that Paul had never been to Colossae, and yet he still had specific requests in mind for the believers there. How could this be? Well, Paul knew general needs of all Christians and so he was able to pray in this way for the Colossian believers. Additionally, Paul had just received a report about the church in Colossae from Epaphras and apparently he paid attention. He may have even written it down in his prayer journal (that might be a bit of s stretch, but I think you get my point). However, he remembered their needs it is clear that he was specifically concerned about their situation as he prayer for them. These weren’t vague “Jesus bless so and so” prayers. We will see this more tomorrow, but if you look at some of the specifics of Paul’s request we will see that his requests were closely related to the problem of the Colossian heresy.
Paul’s specific prayers for the Colossians certainly revealed his love for them, and it is a wonderful model for us to follow in our own prayer lives. Scripture calls for us to make specific requests in prayer. Think about James 4:2-3:
You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
This is how prayer works. God uses specific prayer as a means to accomplish His specific plan.
So how can we be more specific in our prayers? Try a few of these practical suggestions and see if they help you to be more like Paul in your prayer life:
- Pray as soon as you hear a need
- Write down specific requests
- Continue to pray for and with people
- Follow up with people
- On the flip side, be willing to share specific request to others.