Colossians 1: A Shepherd’s Prayer

  • Read Colossians 1:1-14 here.
  • If you missed Sunday’s sermon (10 October), you can listen to it here.

As a church leader, I find myself often bogged down in a lot of tasks and details that seem distinctly un-spiritual.  Surely I have a higher calling than comparing this year’s energy bill to last year’s bill and discussing who’s the best church member to manage the church’s thermostat.

Don’t get me wrong.  Thermostat management is an important function to church growth.  If members/guests are habitually too hot or cold their motivation to continue attending will no doubt diminish.  But is that really the responsibility of church leaders?  In a small church the answer may well be “Yes”, but it’s never our primary responsibility.

In Colossians 1:9-14 Paul provides a tremendous example of how church leaders should care for God’s flock.  I find his prayer personally inspiring.  (However, I also find that he uses a lot of run on thoughts and doesn’t take many breaths, so I outlined these verses)  He doesn’t beat around the bush.  He focuses on the Big Picture describing his vision of how the Gospel impacts people’s lives.

I love the heart behind Paul’s prayer for these young Christians.  His primary concern is that the Spirit fill them with the knowledge of God’s will.  But this is not his final goal.  The reason for the knowing God’s will is so they can 1. Live a life worthy of the Lord, and 2. Please him in every way.

As a church member I would be thrilled to know that this was the primary concern of my church leaders.  I would be enormously encouraged to know that they were regularly praying for my spiritual growth, not just in conforming my behaviour, but in my real relationship with God and knowledge of His will.  I long to live a life worthy of the Lord and to please Him in every way, but it’s an ongoing struggle.  While I assume my church leadership share these goals for me, it’s comforting to hear Paul, and my leaders, express it.

As a church leader I know that far too often I have prayed, both in leadership meetings and privately, that someone might attend worship services more regularly or for deliverance from a particular crisis a member is experiencing, rather than for the spiritual maturing of the church.  It’s much easier to be reactive, than proactive.  To be fair, most members are a lot more forthcoming about a co-worker’s mother’s kidney disease, than the total absence of their own prayer discipline, or their struggle with anger.  This lack of transparency within most churches increases the challenges elders and other leaders face as we care for the souls in our care.

I expect that church leaders who regularly pray for “the Spirit to fill their church members with the knowledge of God’s will” would also discuss different issues in their meetings.  They would be more likely to consider ways God could use them to increase the church’s knowledge of God.  They would discuss the growth of members, not just the struggles.  They would spend more time discussing how they could encourage members to “live lives worthy of the Lord“.  Thermostats might never be mentioned.

Have you known church leaders that you regard as particularly “spiritual”?

  • How did they express their spirituality?
  • How did they communicate their concern for your soul?
  • How did this person impact your faith?

Read Colossians 1:9-14 again.

  • Can you imagine Paul chairing a church business meeting or elders’ meeting?
  • How do you think Paul’s meeting would run?

NOTE:  I have been a member/minister at 7 churches since my baptism.  This post reflects my collective church experience in addition to other resources I have encountered.    I believe the vast majority of churches struggle to integrate the Spiritual and Physical needs of the congregation and to be more Proactive than Reactive.  As do most individuals.  I think that’s why I find the clarity and focus of Paul’s prayer so striking.

Neither do I recall having any particular conversations about thermostats, but used that simply as an example of the type of issues that can demand attention at times.



    • ozziepete

      I agree. I taught Ephesians a year or so ago and with both Ephesians 1:17-23 and Colossians 1:9-14 I have personalised the prayers and distributed copies for members to pray for each other and share with those in need of a blessing. For the Ephesians passage in a Bible class we stopped right there and prayed for each other in groups of three, which was well received. The Colossians prayer I handed out during worship, and I haven’t received any feedback whether members followed through with that.

      Although Paul’s prayers in these letters are extremely deep, I hope that by studying them we can not just learn to pray the words, but come to understand and develop the heart behind them.

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