Prayer for Wisdom and Gratitude

For this reason, from the day we heard it, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We’re asking God to fill you with the knowledge of what he wants in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. This will mean that you’ll be able to conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Lord, and so give him real delight, as you bear fruit in every good work and grow up in the knowledge of God. I pray that you’ll be given all possible strength, according to the power of his glory, so that you’ll have complete patience and become truly steadfast and joyful. And I pray that you will learn to give thanks to the father, who has made you fit to share the inheritance of God’s holy ones in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness, and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved son. He is the one in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. ~ Colossians 1:9-14

We watched, holding our breath, as the mother duck left the pond at the head of her brood. There were seven ducklings in all: four black ones and three yellow ones. They were lively and squeaky, scuttling to and fro. For days they had swum about with their mother in the little pond. Now it was time for her to take them to the nearby lake. This meant danger. To get there they had to cross a main road and make
their way through a park where dogs, cats, larger birds and several other predators would be watching. Fortunately, in this city at least, local residents are prepared for this moment and make sure that traffic comes to a stop to let the little procession pass through. They reached their destination safely. But we were left marvelling at the mother’s apparent calm confidence as she led her little family through potential hazards and on to the larger world where she would then bring them up to maturity.

Paul, in prison in Ephesus, must often have felt like a mother duck. Here was he in a little church, just starting up, full of energy and enthusiasm but hardly yet aware of the great dangers and problems that were to be faced. He couldn’t even be with them in person to guide them and teach them. The mother duck has to rely on instinct – her own, and that of her recently born babies – to see them through. But ordinary human instinct alone won’t get the young church through to maturity. Human instincts are important, but they remain earthbound. When people become Christians, God implants into them a new sense of his presence and love, his guiding and strengthening. This sense needs nurturing and developing. New Christians need to understand what’s happening to them, and how they must cooperate
with the divine life that’s gently begun to work in them.

Paul, in prison, can help this process in two ways: by writing, as he is doing, but supremely by prayer. He may not be with the Colossians in person. But the God who is with them is also with him, and in the mystery (and hard work) of prayer he can help their progress towards Christian maturity.
The foundation of what he prays for is that the new Christian instinct may become firmly implanted in them. Just as the mother duck wants her brood to be able to work out for themselves how to feed, to avoid danger, and to live wisely in a threatening environment, so Paul longs to see young Christians coming to know for themselves what God’s will is (verse 9).
They need ‘wisdom and spiritual understanding’; not just book-learning (though some of that may help) or human traditions (though they are often useful, too), but a deep inner sense of who they now are, of the newly created human life which they have received from God, and of what will nurture it or harm it. Christian teachers can talk till they’re blue in the face, but unless their hearers have this inner sense of wisdom and understanding, this awareness of the true God loving them and shaping their lives in a new
way, it won’t produce genuine disciples.
With that in place, however, Paul’s prayer passes to two other things: behavior & bearing fruit (verse 10). The new instinct implanted in the Christian will lead him or her to a new lifestyle, which delights God not least because it reflects, at last, his glorious intention for his human creatures.
But if this is to happen, the new life that’s been implanted in Christians has to show itself in the form of energy, power and strength to live in the new way. That, too, is promised, and that too is what Paul is praying for.
God’s power has already delivered us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his son, Jesus. That same power is now available to continue the work of bringing our lives into conformity with the new world which opens up before us.
When Paul speaks of God rescuing people from one kingdom and giving them another one, and of ‘redemption’ and ‘forgiveness’ as the central themes of that rescue operation, he has the exodus from Egypt in mind.
What God has done in Jesus, and is now doing for them, is the new exodus, the great moment of setting the slaves free. To become a Christian is to leave the ‘Egypt’ of sin and to travel gratefully towards the promised inheritance.
Why ‘gratefully’? Because the climax of Paul’s prayer is that the young Christians will learn the art of thanksgiving. What Paul most wants to see growing in the church, as a sign of healthy Christian life on the way to maturity, is gratitude to God for the extraordinary things he’s done in Jesus, and the remarkable things he is continuing to do in the world and in their lives.
Spontaneous gratitude of this kind is a sign that they are coming to know and love the true God, as opposed to some imaginary one. Gods that people invent can’t compare with the true one when it comes to overflowing generosity. Paul would say to us, as he said to the young Christians in Colossae, that a life lived in the presence of this God will be a life full of thanksgiving. Or have we forgotten who our God really is?

For Reflection or Discussion
Have you been able to see new Christians in your church growing in God’s wisdom?

How do you express your gratitude for this?

Taken from Advent for Everyone” –A Journey with the Apostles by Tom Wright

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