I’m sure you’ve had an experience like this at church or in your small group: A friend requests that you pray for her cousin’s neighbor’s best friend who is “going through a difficult time.” A difficult time perhaps rivaled by the consternation you feel in figuring out how to pray for a person that is at best vaguely known to the friend making the request. We have all probably all uttered (at least once) a prayer along the lines of “Lord, be with him.” How does one pray in detail for total (or relative) strangers?
I’m struck by the way that Paul addresses this issue—or at least how he gives us a model for how to pray for people we don’t personally know. Paul’s rich prayers often evidence his intimate friendships and his acquaintance with a church’s specific needs (see, for example Ephesians 1:15-19, 3:14-19; Philippians 1:9-11). But what is even more impressive is the specificity with which he prays for people he has never met.
Though Paul ministered in the region of Phrygia (Asia Minor), he never visited the church in Colossae. The church itself was probably a plant from nearby Ephesus through the evangelistic ministry of Epaphras (Colossians 4:12-13). But when Paul is prompted to pray for the strangers in Colossae, he doesn’t simply ask “Lord, be with them.” He prays for the increase of a deep and experiential knowledge of God’s will. He prays that this knowledge would equip and empower the Colossians to honor Christ in every aspect and manner of life. He prays that their every work would flower in fruitfulness, redounding to an even deeper knowledge of God. He prays that God would strengthen them to persevere with joy in the midst of difficulty, deeply grounded by the fact that God has happily and graciously made them heirs with Christ of the kingdom of God. He prays that their realization of all these things would result in a lifestyle of authentic gratitude.
How’s that for praying helpfully for strangers?
We are grateful to God that many of you are known to us personally. But if you ever wonder how you might pray for an obscure place and people who you’ve never met, perhaps you would let Paul’s words guide your intercession and supplication for us, asking that we …
May be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 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. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:9-12).
In the fellowship of Christ Jesus,
Assistant Professor of Christian Worldview
- Please continue to pray for our students and faculty as they begin the second half of the semester. Especially pray for the new students as they are still adjusting to the rigors of college/seminary life.
- Please pray for Rick Segal, our Vice President of Advancement, as he continues to meet with our current contributors, as well as new friends who are interested in learning more about the ministry of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
- Please pray also for a remarkable response to an ad that we’ve placed in WORLD coming out this week.