Pray To Know God Fully

…asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding...

– Colossians 1:9

Today I get to share with you the second article in the A Prayer for the Saints series. If you missed the first, I really suggest reading it first: Come Thankful & Come Often.

In this series, we are looking at a prayer of Paul in Colossians 1:3-14. In the first article, we looked at how Paul’s example pushes us to come to God with an attitude of thankfulness and to come often. In this article and the next, we will look at what Paul prays specifically for the Colossians and how it shows us that his desire was that they would be conformed into the image of Christ. As we look, my hope is that God will impress upon us to pray the same for our brothers and sisters in Christ both those locally and globally.

Today, we’ll look at how Paul prayed for the Colossians to have a change in how they think. Let’s review the passage before getting started.

Colossians 1:3-14
3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. 

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 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Pray For a Change In Our Minds

As mentioned above, we’ll be looking at how Paul prayed for a change in their minds. He prays first for them be filled with knowledge concerning God’s will, then looks at two parts of that knowledge: spiritual wisdom and understanding. Let’s look at these three things and how they effect our transformation in to the likeness of Christ, and why we should be praying them for each other.

Filled With Knowledge

Pray for one another that we would know God and his will fully.

...asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding… – Colossians 1:9 

Paul starts his prayer at the foundation, asking God that the believers at Colossae be filled with the knowledge of God. What we know really does matter, especially our knowledge about God. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that everything is about feelings and that theology and doctrine can be thrown out the window. There is a unique knitting together of both knowledge and emotions that we will look at in a moment, but it has to start with knowledge.

This is where Paul begins, asking that they have a knowledge about God’s will. An interesting facet about God’s will is that a true knowledge of it is inseparable from an understanding of who God is. The more you listen to someone talk and discover what someone loves, enjoys, seeks, desires, and does, the more you learn about who that person is. So while Paul is praying that they have a deep and thorough understanding of God’s will, you cannot remove it from a plea that they will fully know God himself. 

We do not find life-altering conformity to the image of Christ without knowing who God is, because you cannot become what you do not know. Also, the scripture teaches us that the more you look at the glory of God, who he truly is, the more you will become like him (2 Corinthians 3:18).

That is why we pray for knowledge. We find conformity to Christ as we begin to understand him more for who he really is and what he really desires for us, not by chasing an idol that our emotions and opinions have carved into our imaginations.

Knowledge & Emotion

Now, I want to take a moment and say that I’m not trying to call people to diminish or suppress emotions. In fact, I would rather call people to embrace their emotions and express them. God has given us emotions and they are a wonderful thing, however, they are not our guide. They do not define what we should think or do. They do not define truth. Rather, in their proper joy-enhancing design, they flow out of a response to truth. It is in that way, that our emotions become part of glorifying God. 

Think about music. Music is laid on a logical and mathematical foundation. You have a quantity of beats per measure. There are sound waves that harmonize at scientifically measured lengths. There are mathematical formulas at work allowing these sounds to weave together as music, rather than just colliding as noise. There is a lot of science, logic, reason, and math at play for music to happen.

But it is not experienced as cold and lifeless information. It causes us to feel and experience something. We smile, tap our feet, clap our hands, sway, dance, and jump. The experience of music is very emotional, flowing out of a very logical foundation. The same is with knowing God. In knowing God, we are not accumulating cold lifeless information. We are learning who he truly is so that we can experience him for who he truly is! And when we find the joy of experiencing him, we give him glory! 

You can see this in scripture. In Nehemiah 8:1-12 Ezra is reading the law to the people for the first time in many years. The people are broken under its weight and they weep and repent from their sin. If you read this passage, there is a strong emphasis on how there are those helping the people to understand what was being read to them. At the end of verse 12, the people went out rejoicing, “Because they understood the words that were declared to them.”

Again, our emotions do not define God’s will. The understanding of God’s will comes from an understanding of who God is, and that comes from a renewed mind.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2

A change in mind and thoughts creates a change in actions. With a mind renewed by the Holy Spirit, our lives can begin to be transformed. We can test our choices, motivations, emotions and actions against our new understanding to find out what is in God’s will. What is good, pleasing and perfect. So let us pray for each other to have our minds renewed. Pray that we are filled with the knowledge of God’s will.

Paul then goes on to say that this knowledge of God’s will is found in two things. And he prays that the church at Colosse has them. 

In All Spiritual Wisdom

Pray for insight into what God has said.

...asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding… – Colossians 1:9 

The word for wisdom that Paul uses here is communicating the idea of insight into the true nature of all things, and in this case, spiritual things. 

I want to come at this idea of insight into the true nature of things by first asking a question, where does wisdom come from? One place that the scripture mentions is in our fear of the Lord. 

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, 
   and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. – Proverbs 9:10

Now, what is the fear of the Lord? 

I have heard many say that it is a reverent awe toward God. And I think that is true, however, I would perhaps say it this way: a grasp of and a submission to the majestic nature of God.

This idea of majesty is a powerful one. I heard someone once describe God’s majesty as a captivation and awe with his holiness, power, beauty, and grace, while also feeling a tinge of concern in your soul. It is being unable to look away from the splendor of who God is while knowing if something goes wrong, you're going to die under the weight of his holy glory.

If you have ever been to the Grand Canyon, maybe you can relate to this. When you see its size and beauty you are really drawn in and captivated by it. Yet you know, if you do something stupid there, you could die. People who climb over the fence and out on the rocks at the rim are impressed by the beauty and awe of the canyon, but not with the power its cliffs have to claim their life. When you fear it, you have insights into the true nature of things, and you are in love with its beauty and you don’t cross the fence. You show wisdom.

For another place wisdom comes from, consider the words of James.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. – James 1:5-8

The scripture says that if any lacks wisdom, the same word in Colossians 1:9, God gives it to all who ask without reproach. But how should we ask? With faith. But faith in what?

I have heard people speak on this scripture in a way that claims that God will not answer us if we do not believe he will answer. I understand why they think that, however, I have struggled with this explanation because the scripture says he gives wisdom to all, without reproach.

So, I’ll share my thoughts, and you can see if you agree or disagree. I don’t believe the faith that is spoken of here is a faith that God will answer, but faith that his answer is true and right. It is approaching God with a question, and before he answers being resolved in your heart to count what he says as true. Even if it is not what you may want to hear.

The one who receives guidance from the Lord is the one who believes what God has said and follows him. The one who asks without faith in God’s answer is the one who is double minded and is driven and tossed by every wind of false doctrine. (Ephesians 4:14) He should not expect to receive anything from the Lord after he denies God’s answer and trusts in his own opinions or in false teaching.

Consider Paul’s own journey. When his eyes were opened to the true nature of Christ, his eyes were also opened to the true nature of himself. It was then that all he trusted in as a religious elite came crashing down. He saw his works in the true light and found them to be rubbish and unable to save him.

Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. – Acts 9:3-5

… If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. – Philippians 3:4-11

For Paul, his eyes were opened to the majestic nature of God on the road to Damascus. He then had faith in God's wisdom over his own and it brought him to a desire for Christ over anything else! He understood the true nature of the spiritual realities of God and himself, that he needed Christ, not his duty to works.

So, pray for one another that we all have spiritual wisdom, a solid faith in God’s word as true, and a reverent awe of God’s holiness and beauty that produces willing and joyful submission to him. 

Understanding From Experience

Pray that we grow in our understanding as we experience God as true

...asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding… – Colossians 1:9 

The word Paul uses here for understanding is one that communicates knowledge and insights in action.

This understanding is the second facet of being filled with the knowledge of God and his will. The first was wisdom, an insight into the true nature of things, and now this second is the idea of experiencing that wisdom as true. It is when knowledge becomes less of an abstract idea and more of a reality as you watch it at work in your own life.

I won’t belabor this point here because we will look at it more in the third part of this series. However, I want to take a moment to look at a couple scriptures on this. 

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. – James 1:22-25

We are called to be doers of God’s word and will. If we simply hear God’s word and never do any of it, we deceive ourselves. If we never live our life in a way that claims a promise he has made, if we do not submit to his commands, if we do not love his ways, we have some serious questions to ask ourselves. 

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? – 1 John 5:3-4

So pray that our knowledge of God’s will comes to life as we experience his word as true in our lives. Pray that we put full faith in God’s promises and his word, so that we step out in trust wherever he leads, and watch him work to make us more like Christ!

Thanks for coming and studying with me in this look at Paul’s prayer to the Colossians. Part three will be a deeper look at the relationship between knowing God and living for God. Until then, keep praying for one another to know God more, see him clearly, and glorify him for who he really is!

Read part three of this series Pray To Walk Worthy

Explore other series here.