By Ava Pennington, Crosswalk.com
So many people, so many needs. And sometimes people don’t realize what their own needs really are.
Being called to ministry includes a call to pray for those to whom we’re ministering. That’s usually easy to identify when the prayer requests are for temporal basics such as health or finances.
But what about spiritual needs? The women in my Bible study class are rarely shy about requesting prayer for their physical needs or the needs of loved ones. But they are often reticent about asking for prayer regarding their own spiritual condition.
Of course, in any large group, there are bound to be those who don’t know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. There are also some who have been Christians for most of their lives, but have become complacent about sharing the gospel. Then there are others who are excited to grow in their relationship with the Lord.
Problem is, the larger the group, the more difficult it is to know where every person is spiritually. So how can we pray effectively for all the people in our ministries when we don’t know what to pray for every individual person?
The apostle Paul provides a terrific guide for us in his letter to the Colossian church. In Colossians 1:9-12, Paul details his consistent prayer for this body of believers.
1. A Wise Life
How many in your ministry want to know what God’s will is? They’ve questioned and searched without finding a satisfactory answer. In Colossians 1:9 (NIV), Paul said he continually prayed for God to fill the Colossians with the “knowledge of his will.”
Of course, in order to know His will, one must be in a saving relationship with the Father through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.
But for the Christian, God’s will is not so much a destination as it is an on-going process. The rest of Colossians 1:9 tells us the knowledge of God’s will comes “through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.” James reminds us that if we want wisdom, we need only ask (James 1:5). As we grow in our understanding of the nature and ways of God and respond to our circumstances with His perspective, we live in God’s will, whether we realize it or not.
Are you praying for the people in your ministry to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Holy Spirit gives?
2. A Pleasing Life
As Christians, our goal is not just to know the Word, but to do it. One thing I love about the in-depth Bible class I teach is that it has a reputation for focusing on application as much as it focuses on understanding.
Paul shows us the priority of life-change in the next phrase of his prayer for the Colossians in verse 10: “so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way.” The whole point of receiving wisdom and understanding and knowing God’s will is so that, as Christians, we will live differently from the world.
Are you praying for the people in your ministry to experience life-change by applying what they are learning?
3. A Fruitful Life
Everyone I know describes themselves as busy, especially during the Christmas season. But busy is not the same as fruitful. A hamster running on its wheel in a cage is busy, but doesn’t have much to show for its effort.
Our ministries are filled with busy people. Too busy. Ministry activity limps along because just about everyone is running around doing what they think needs to be done, instead of what God is calling them to do. How can we tell the difference? Simple: it’s in the fruit.
In the remaining portion of verse 10, Paul tells us the way to please the Lord is by “bearing fruit in every good work” and “growing in the knowledge of God.” As we grow in our understanding of who God is and what He has called each of us to do, our activity will not be busy-work, but rather fruitful work.
Are you praying for the people in your ministry to get involved or to be fruitful?
4. A Strong Life
It seems as if every time I turn around, I’m hearing bad news. The women in my ministry are struggling with all sorts of problems, from health issues to financial pressures, to broken relationships. Come to think of it, aren’t we all struggling with these, and other, difficulties?
Paul understood that life is difficult. As he said in verse 11, we need to be “strengthened with all power according to his glorious might.” We also need to “have great endurance and patience.”
Life isn’t about trying harder, working smarter, or doing better. For the Christian, life is about total dependence on the Holy Spirit to acquire strength and power from our omnipotent God in order to face life’s trials.
Are you praying for the people in your ministry to rely on the Holy Spirit for the endurance to face hardship?
5. A Joyful Life
Joy is contagious. But joy is also a choice. Actually it’s the result of a series of choices.
As we follow Paul’s prayer for the Colossians, we see that everything he is praying for in the lives of the Colossians is bound together with joy and gratitude – verse 12, “giving joyful thanks to the Father.”
When we’re filled with the knowledge of God’s will through the wisdom and understanding the Holy Spirit gives, and when we experience life-change by applying what we’re learning, we are to choose joy. When we’re fruitful in ministry, we are to choose joy. Even while we’re relying on the Holy Spirit for perseverance in trials, we are to choose joy.
Why all this joy? Because as Paul noted in the remainder of verse 12, God has qualified us to “share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” This life is temporary. When we maintain an eternal focus, the result is joy as we anticipate our glorious inheritance.
Are you praying for the people in your ministry to choose the joy that comes from maintaining an eternal perspective?
There’s nothing wrong with praying for the physical needs of the people we serve. But let’s not forget their spiritual needs, too. Even if they don’t know what to ask for, thanks to Paul’s help, we know how to pray for them. And it’s not a bad idea to pray the same things for ourselves, too!
Ava Pennington teaches a Bible Study Fellowship class. She is also the author of Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, published by Revell Books and endorsed by Kay Arthur.
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