Someone said to me the other day, “I just don’t know how to pray for my Christian friends.” I thought the person had said “NON-Christian” and so launched into a very unhelpful lecture on How To Share The Gospel. But no, these people are in their early twenties and they are saved, they just have a long list of woes the person didn’t know how to address. Everything from housing insecurity to anxiety to sexual immorality was on the list. Since I’d already been singularly unhelpful once in the conversation, I was able to shut my trap and not chirp, “Oooh, have you read…” as though a new, sleek-covered publication would be a panacea to deep-seated fears and sorrows. The person didn’t want to give a self-help book, he wanted to know how to pray.
Here’s what I told the person:
Since the day the Colossian church understood the grace of God in truth, this was Paul’s prayer focus: that they would be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding—-that will help them walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, pleasing to Him, and they will bear fruit in every good work and increase in the knowledge of God. Paul also prays for them to be strengthened with all power, for all endurance and patience with joy. Paul gives thanks to God, the One who qualifies them to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
These friends are believers! That means they’ve been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. In Him these people have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
You start with compassion-filled worry, but you have to move on to prayer. Pray that they would understand, experience, and believe in that full deliverance. Meditate on the kingdom, where the peace and presence of God reigns. Pray that their redemption would be like a stamp on their foreheads that they see every time they look in the mirror. Pray that their forgiven sins would be like a huge burden relieved from their shoulders and not a hulking, hovering pile of shame and regret.
The gospel of grace looks very different from the gospel of “shoulds and oughts.” Do they understand the grace of God in truth? Are they caught in a false gospel? It’s okay if you’re being tempted thusly. Jesus was, too. In Matthew chapter 4, Satan begins every temptation with an attack on Jesus’s identity. “If you are the Son of God…” the accuser begins. So, pray that your friends would be able to sing the line of this hymn at the top of their lungs:
ON CHRIST THE SOLID ROCK I STAND! ALL OTHER GROUND IS SINKING SAND!
Next, pray that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. Not sure what that is? “What is the will of God for my life” is a different blog post but steer on over to 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything, give thanks: for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” Give thanks. In everything. I believe this verse really does mean everything when it says everything, even the awful things. You’re not glad about your suffering, obviously, but thanking God acknowledges His sovereignty. Thanksgiving in and for trials dashes pride against the rocks. Quiets rebellious hearts. Soothes entitled spirits. God alone is God, He is One, and we belong to Him.
“All spiritual wisdom and understanding.” You can ask God to give this to your friends!! I mean, it takes time, but this is something Paul is praying for the church so we should pray for it, too. I don’t know how other people gain spiritual wisdom and understanding, but anything I’ve got, I obtained by being a big fat sinner and getting rescued a shocking number of times. Fortunately, I was trained early in my faith how to study the Word of God. That it is like honey to my lips has smoothed over a multitude of rough places, no question. But if you lack wisdom, ask God. If you lack understanding, ask God. He will not deny you these things! They sometimes do come from trials and temptations, though, so be ready to give thanks. And then tell a friend. Say, “I asked for spiritual wisdom and then So-and-So dumped me and I have to give a testimony on Sunday and I really want to ditch it all and move to Alaska.” Hopefully, you’ve got a good friend who will tell you that everything is going to be fine, you’re not going to move to Alaska, and then they will go over your testimony with you until you’re buzzing with excitement because you’ve remembered what God hath done.
“Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord…bearing good fruit…” In case you are wondering, here are some things in which you can walk: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. It’s not an exhaustive list! Neither is the stuff that comes from the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, etc. If you want to bear good fruit, ask God to help you. Pray for your friends to want to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord and for them to want to bear good fruit. Tell them when you see them bearing the good fruit. Super-awkward? Probably. But hey, gaining spiritual wisdom does not promise you will be elegant and poised all the time, much to my perpetual chagrin.
Then go right ahead and pray for your friends to be strengthened with power. The Holy Spirit is alive. He is powerful. He wants to give endurance and joy. Don’t be afraid to ask God for all kinds of gifts to fall on your friends! They don’t have to have their ducks in a row before the power comes. They might be smack dab in the middle of the “flesh” list above and all of a sudden they’re seeing the truth of God for the first time. You don’t know. It’s none of your business. Just pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to change their hearts and minds. Pray in faith believing you’re going to see victory in your friends’ lives. You’re on the sidelines, jumping up and down, waving the sign like a maniac, handing out cups of water and planning after-parties. Now your compassion-filled worry has turned to faith, to expectation, to hope, to confidence in the power of God and not the power of your own wisdom or ability. There is nothing to lose! And now your friends are covered by God, who loves them better than you, anyway.
Bring your friends to God like the four men who ripped up a roof to get their paralyzed buddy to Jesus. They acted in faith, and received far more than they could have asked or imagined. Won’t it be so amazing when that happens to you and your friends?!?!? It will. So, rest easy with those burdens and secrets you carry for the people you love. Pray hard for the souls and minds. Watch eagerly to see how God will bring Himself glory. The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
And then, rejoice!