Charles Stanley - A Pattern Of Powerful Prayer
If someone should ask you, "How can I pray for you"? what would you say? Would you be able to give them a very clear answer and say, "I want you to pray for me in this area or that area of my life"? Or would you because maybe of, because of pride and maybe a little bit of embarrassment you would have to say, "Well, you know, I'll think about it"? Or it may be that you're not even sure exactly what God is up to in your life and you wouldn't know what to say anyway. And sometimes we really don't know how to answer someone when they say, "How shall I pray for you"? And yet, all of us have needs for prayer, and probably one of the greatest assets of our life is to have somebody we know who loves us, somebody who's concerned about us who genuinely will call our name.
Now, oftentimes we want to pray for someone and we don't know what to pray for. And oftentimes when we ask and they don't tell us, yet we know that there's a real need in their life. We sense this need in their life. Sometimes we don't know what to pray for. So, oftentimes we will say, "Well, Lord, just bless them and help them and meet their needs and so forth". And so, it's so general that oftentimes likewise we just sorta forget to pray for them when we just move on, less we keep saying the same thing over and over again. Sometimes we have the idea that if you become a Christian then you just automatically know how to pray. And here's a young Christian just born again by the grace of God and they not too sure how to pray. And we just sorta take for granted they know how to pray. But you see, prayer is something that you and I learn how to do. And probably one of the best scriptures to undergird that whole idea is what the Lord Jesus Christ said, or what was going on in His life when the disciples found Him praying.
The eleventh chapter of Luke and the first verse says that, "It came about that while He was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said this to Him, they said, 'Lord, teach us to pray,'" listen, teach us to pray, "'just as John also taught his disciples to pray.'" Now, you would think that these men who'd walked with the Lord Jesus and had been listening to Him and watching Him and hearing Him pray, they'd just automatically know how. But they did not. But one of the ways to learn how to pray is to listen to someone pray who really knows how to talk to God. That's not the only way. But it's interesting that they said to Him, "We want You to teach us how to pray just like John the Baptist taught His disciples how to pray".
Well, there are many, many prayers in the Bible. And I think some of these prayers are tremendous patterns for us, to give us an idea of how we should pray. Otherwise, we'll repeat the same old things over and over again, same words. And we'll make the same request. And sometimes you've heard people pray, you know exactly what they're gonna say. "Well, Lord, bless this, bless that," and if we've confessed any sins, "we've sinned, please forgive us of our sins". And pray for the missionaries and pray for this and pray for that. And oftentimes it is a repeat of things they've been praying all of their life. God wants our prayers to be specific. He wants them to be prayed in faith. He wants us to have, listen, He wants us to have assurance that when we talk to Him, we can expect God to intervene in our life or the life of the person we are praying for.
Now, there are many patterns of prayer in the Bible, and all of us know the one, of course, that Jesus says this is the way you're to pray: Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Most of that prayer deals with our needs. What about when you and I are praying for someone else? And what about those prayers that go beyond: help me in temptation, supply my needs, and do this and do that? What about those prayers that get down to the rich, deep things that you and I want God to do in our life that's other than material things and all of the things that are usually on the surface? Well, there are many patterns in the Bible, many prayers, but I want you to turn, if you will, to Colossians chapter one because here is a prayer that I have oftentimes prayed for people, many people over the years. One thing I know about this prayer, every time I pray it, I'm right on target. Secondly, I know that God, listen, that God is hearing what I'm requesting. I know that every single thing I ask in this prayer is the will of God. I do not have to ask Him, "Lord, if it, listen, Lord, if be Thy will, answer this prayer". I know absolutely without any question that it is the will of God and that God will indeed act in my behalf as I make these requests for someone else.
And so, when we come to this prayer, I want us to read it with this in mind. This is a prayer that all of us need to pray for ourselves. It is a powerful prayer that you and I can pray in behalf of someone else. Now, let me give you a little idea of what is happening here. The Apostle Paul spent three years of His ministry in Ephesus. During that time, a man by the name of Epaphras was converted, went back to Colossae, and he began to share what the Lord had done in His life. And so now Paul, having heard of how God is working in their lives, is praying this prayer in their behalf. Listen to what He says beginning in verse nine. He says, "For this reason," speaking of what he's just said in this first paragraph or so concerning their love and their devotion, "For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience, joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. For He 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".
Now, that's a rather short prayer. I wish I could pray a prayer as short as that that was as full of the rich truths and the awesome requests that the Apostle Paul made for these Colossians. Now, I titled this message, listen, I titled this message not just prayer but "A Pattern of Powerful Prayer". Why do I use the word powerful? Because this prayer, if you'll analyze it, listen, it is a powerful prayer. What do I mean by powerful? Simply this, that it has within it, listen, it has within it the energy and the strength of Almighty God. It has within it the authority of God. What makes your prayers and mine effective and penetrating and life-changing is that we're able to pray with a sense of authority. That authority must be based on our relationship to Jesus Christ. And secondly, it must be based on the truth and it must be based on the assurance that you and I have that if we pray this prayer, God is going to respond accordingly.
I wonder how many times you and I pray and we get up and we just hope He heard us. And we hope He will do it. Listen, when you pray this prayer for someone, you don't have to hope God is going to hear you. You pray this prayer for someone, you don't have to wonder if He is. You don't have to get up and walk away and think, "Well, I hope He heard me. I wonder if He will, I hope He will. Sometimes He does, sometimes He does not". No! When you and I make a petition to God in behalf of anyone else, and we pray what is the will of the Father, we never have to add to the end of that prayer, "Lord, if it be Thy will". You know what that is? That is oftentimes a habit. Oftentimes that's something that we tack on to the end of our prayers because we've heard other people say that.
Now, I'm not saying it's never right to ask that question because sometimes you and I don't know the will of God. We can make requests for ourselves or with other people. Sometimes we're not sure. And oftentimes we're confronted with a situation or decision and we ask, "Lord, here's what I believe You're saying, and, God, this is what I'm asking You to do if it's Your will. Lord, if it's not, just cancel it out. If it's not, Father, just ignore the fact that I've asked You". Sometimes we don't know the will of God immediately. But when we do, do not add to the end of your prayer, "And Father, in Jesus's name, if it be Thy will". That, listen, forget it if you know that's the will of God.
Now, when we talk about prayer and we talk about the fact that we say this is a powerful prayer. I think when I look at it and listen to what Paul said about these Colossian believers, what he was praying, he knew that what he was praying was the will of the Father. He knew that what he was asking, every single one of these requests would not only be the will of the Father for Colossians, but the truth is, this prayer, listen. This prayer is needed by every single one of us for ourselves. And if you want to do someone a great, listen, a great favor, you pray this prayer, put their name in this prayer, you begin to call their name before God daily, crying out to God in their behalf with this prayer, something will happen to their life.
Now listen, when someone is prayed for like a prayer, like this one and maybe some others in the scripture, they will have to resist God. They will have to resist your prayer. They will find themselves under a sense of pressure, they won't even be able to explain it. They'll just know that they're feeling something. It'll be something weighty. What it is, that prayer's getting through, it's penetrating their life. If they have a rebellious spirit, if their attitude's all messed up in some fashion, they don't want to do what God wants 'em to do, they're gonna feel the pressure. What they're doing, they will have to, listen, they will have to resist your prayer and they will have to resist the God who's putting the pressure on them. This is an awesome prayer. It is a prayer that every parent, every father and every mother should pray for their children, every grandfather should pray for His grandchildren because it will and can make a difference in every person's life. So I want us to look at this in the light of this fact that it is a powerful prayer. It can penetrate a heart. It can penetrate a person's whole makeup. It can penetrate all their plans and all their decisions. It can penetrate every facet of their life because every single request is the, listen, is the very clear will of God. So don't say, "Lord, if it be Thy will".
Now, let's look at this prayer, and I want you to think about it for yourself. If you want God's best for yourself, you pray this prayer for yourself. If you want God's best for someone else, you start praying for them. It may be your enemies, it may be the people you work with, it may be somebody you love dearly, it may be your children. If you will pray this prayer, something will transpire in their life. So I want us to look at it and look at these requests that he made. And so he said that he ceased not to pray, he said, "Ceased not to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding".
Now, when he said, "Filled with the knowledge of His will," he's not talking about just some ethereal kind of ideas possibly. But we're talking about, listen, we're talking about the fullness of the knowledge of the will of God. When he talks about the word knowledge here, that word really and truly means, listen, it means more than just an idea. It means experience. God wants us to experience His will. So when he says here that they may be filled with the knowledge of His will, that is a fullness of the understanding of the will of God. I want somebody to pray that for me. You want someone to pray that for you, that you would understand the will of God, you would understand the plan of God, the purpose of God in your life. How can you and I walk obediently before Him if we don't know what His will is? How can we make right decisions, wise decisions, if we don't know what the will of God is?
Listen, to know the will of God for your life is one of the most precious things God could ever teach us. And I can remember before my kids ever understood what that phrase meant, I'd get down by the bed with them at night time and I would pray, "Lord, that He would show my children His will for their life". I would teach them to make that request before God. When they would ask me, "What's the will of God"? I'd say, "Well, that's God purpose for your life". "Well, what's the purpose for your life"? "Well, that's God's plan for your life". "What's God's plan for your life"? "That's what He wants to do with your life". "Well, what does He want to do with my life"? "I don't know, but the primary prayer of your life," and I would say to them, "The most important prayer that you can pray at this age," and they were little, real small tots, "the most important prayer you can pray at this time in your life is, 'God, show me Your will for my life. Show me Your will for my life. Show me Your will for my life.'"
I just absolutely riveted that into their minds, that it was the most important thing. They didn't have to pray for food, clothing, shelter, any of that, I'm gonna take care of that. I want you to pray for God to show you His will and purpose and plan for your life. Listen, it is the most important thing you can drill into a kid's heart as they're growing up very, very small. God has a plan for your life. God has a purpose for your life. Don't waste your life. Find out what He wants to tell you. He will show you His will for your life. Most important thing you need to know at this point in your life. I wonder how many of you parents, listen, you talk to your children about the ball game. You know all the players. You can talk about the movies. You know all the characters and all the players in that.
I wonder how many times you've taken the time to say to your son or your daughter, "I want you to know God's plan for your life. I want you to know God's will for your life". And you've prayed and prayed and prayed for God to show your sons and your daughters, your grandchildren God's will and purpose and plan for their life. This is an awesome prayer. I don't have to ask, "Lord, show my children, or show my grandchildren, or show my friend Your will for his life or her life in this particular situation," why? Because I know it is the will of God for Him to unveil Himself and to reveal Himself and to show His truth, His way in every single circumstance of life. That's what God wants to do. He delights, He says, in prospering His children.
Now, prosperity isn't just something that you and I can handle like money. Listen, I'd rather, much rather to be prospered in my soul, in my spirit, than in material things. Material things pass. That which prospers my spirit will never pass. That which prospers my spirit is an eternal prosperity. And so, when Paul said to them, He says, "Here's what I'm praying for you. I'm praying that you will know, listen, that you'll have the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding". What does He mean? He says, "I want you to know, I want you to know God's will from this perspective. I want you to know God's will. I want you to know it the way He sees it. I want you to see your life the way He sees it. Then I want you to comprehend, full understanding, I want you to comprehend what is God up to in your life? What is His plan for your life"? Does God always give us the full plan up front? No, He does not. Usually in most situations and circumstances, what does He tell us? He tells us this much, and then we look and we say, "Well, now we can go this far".
God knows better than to show us the whole big picture all at once. Most of us would say, "Well, I look back in my life", I'm sure when I was saved at twelve, God said, "Now, here's what you can face". Ha, if He'd have just left some of that in there, I'd have said, "Well, I'll tell You what, I'm ready to go. Take me right now". And yet God does not do that. What does He do? He shows us just enough to let us know that we're in the right place, in the right direction, doing the right thing. That's all God's promise to show us. Oftentimes, listen, when necessary, He will show us a long-term plan. When necessary, He wills to give us a big idea. When necessary, He will show us His great purpose. And I think God is so much more willing to reveal and show us the things that we need to know if we would just ask Him, if we would just listen to Him, if we would tune our heart, bend our heart toward Him, God is so willing.
So when you and I pray for someone else, Lord, would You please fill them with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding? God wants to answer that prayer. And I'm telling you, you're gonna have to resist. Listen, if I'm praying that for you, you're gonna have to resist that prayer, resist the will of God, resist the tender pressure of God in order to escape that prayer. And I want somebody to pray that for me. When somebody says, "Well, Pastor, how can I pray for you"? Once in a while I can say, "Pray for this, pray for that, pray for the other". When I don't have anything burning in my heart, I say, "Tell you what you do, you just pray Colossians chapter one beginning in verse nine through fourteen and I'll be absolutely tickled to death because I need every single one of those every day". Every single one of us need to know daily and oftentimes hourly and oftentimes moment by moment, What's the will of the Father in this? To pray for God to give you the fullness of the knowledge of His will.
Now, listen, as we've said before, that isn't just factual knowledge. That is experiential knowledge. And that is a knowledge of what He's doing in our life, what His purpose is, and what His plan for our life is, and oftentimes His ways. What is the next step in this particular situation? God will answer that prayer. Look at this second request. He said, "Now, first of all, fill with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you and I may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord". Well, the first request was for sense of direction, the will of God. Secondly, the quality of life. He says that you and I may walk worthy of the Lord.
Now, what does he mean by that? Well, to walk worthy of the Lord is to walk in a fashion, listen, that is in keeping with who we are. You and I say that we're the followers of Jesus Christ. We are Christians. And to be a follower of Jesus Christ, then if my conduct and my behavior are such then I'm gonna walk in a manner that is worthy of being called a Christian, does that mean we'll never sin? No. Does it mean we're perfect? No. But it means, listen, that our sense of direction, that our heart's desire, that the character of our life, the quality of our life, the direction for our life is to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. And that whole concept, the whole idea, the very phrase of walking in a manner worthy of, Paul uses it in Ephesians chapter four, it was an inscription often found in the pagan society in which the Apostle Paul lived. And oftentimes, they would describe that by a set of scales. And one person would be, the pagans used it to weigh themselves against their god, to see the value of their life.
Here's what the Apostle Paul says. Apostle Paul is simply saying this: that you and I are to pray for someone else in this light, and that is that that person for whom we are praying, that, listen, here's the call of God, and here's their life. Listen, He wants us to come up to be able to not match the character of Christ, we'll never do that, but that our life would begin to weigh in such a fashion that our life would be characterized by those qualities found in the Lord Jesus Christ. The fruit of the Spirit is love and joy and peace and goodness and faithfulness and self-control and all those things plus many others. But when he talks about walking in a manner worthy, he's talking about walking in such a fashion that our behavior and our conduct, listen, that someone would watch us, someone would see us, and see such a similarity in our attitude, in our conduct and behavior, that they too would be drawn to the Lord Jesus Christ. What he was simply saying is this. He said, "I want you to walk in such a fashion that those around you will begin to understand what God has done in your life and will understand what God is doing in your life".
And so when people meet us, I wonder what they think. Do they see in you and in me a character? Do they see in us a quality of life? Do they see in us an attitude? Do they see in our conduct, in our behavior and our actions those qualities that would remind them of the Lord Jesus Christ? Remember that He died and was resurrected, and the Bible says He ascended and went to the Father. And so now here we are left down here but indwelt by the Holy Spirit. And I believe as I think about what the Christian life is all about, He simply left us here because we're an extension of His life. When Jesus Christ is speaking through you, when Jesus Christ is living through you, when Jesus Christ is working through you, what's happening?
Our Father is extending the life of Jesus on this earth. He says we're an extension of His life. Listen, we're an exhibition of His character. The character qualities found in us should be those character qualities found in the Lord Jesus Christ. And likewise, not only exhibition of His life, but we're a demonstration of His power. Every single one of us who's been saved by the grace of God is a demonstration, listen, of God's great love and power to reach down, forgive us of our sins, draw us out of the enslavement of sin, indwell Himself within us, and enable us to walk a godly, holy life, a demonstration of His power, listen, an extension of His life, exhibition of His character, of His character qualities, and a demonstration of God's awesome power. Now, you think about this. When you begin to pray for someone else, "Lord, that they may have a full understanding of Your will for their life. And then, Lord, that that person may walk in a manner worthy, listen, worthy of their calling, worthy of their relationship, worthy of the name which they possess. And that possession is the name of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself".
You don't have to ask if that's the will of the Father. It is the will of the Father that you and I have the character of Christ. It's the... you know what He said? Romans 8:29, He predestined you and me to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. So therefore it is natural and normal for the unbelieving world to expect you and me to walk in a fashion that reminds them of, that is something about our spirit, something about our life, something about the atmosphere around us. When they walk into your presence, they should feel something other than what the world feels among themselves, and that something is the presence of Christ. And what is He doing? He is living out of you, speaking through you. He's working through you. God within you will cause the unbeliever to sense something different about you.
If anybody who is an unbeliever can meet us and not see any difference, feel any difference, even before we talk, maybe something is missing in our life. And so if you and I cry out to God, "Lord, that my son, my daughter, my grandchildren, my friend here, my friend there, this person going through difficulty and hardship. Lord, show them the fullness of Your will for their life. Father, show them how to walk in a manner that is worthy of who You are and worthy of who they are". God will hear and answer that prayer. And I want to say again to parents and grandparents, listen, you start praying that prayer for your children. Listen, when do you start? You say, "When do I start"? You start before they're born. Start before they're born. You say, "Well, now how's God gonna answer my prayer? My children aren't even born". I want to tell you something, God knows all about your children before they're ever born. You don't think God'll answer that prayer? Yes, He can and yes, He will. God will hear and answer our prayers, why? Because these are the things He wants to do.
Listen, these are the things that delight Him, that you and I would, listen, that we would search to know His will, hunger to know His will and walk in it. We will walk in a manner that is worthy of who we are. Listen, we named the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, character, conduct, conversation, listen, should be so like His they cannot miss Jesus within us. Something about our countenance should say to them, "There's something different about him, something different about her". Well, one thing for certain, if I pray this for somebody else, it's gonna end up blessing me. I can't pray for God to show you your will, His will for your life very long without praying it about myself. I won't be praying, "God show you, show them how to walk in a manner that's worthy of You and pleasing to You in every area of their life without praying that prayer for my own self".
Listen to this third request. He said not only that we walk in a manner worthy of Him, to please Him in all respects, but bearing fruit in every good work. Father, here, what are we doing? We are asking now, not only for direction for their will, quality of life in walking a manner worthy. But now, bearing fruit in every good work. What are we talking about? The wise investment of their life. What are they doing with their life? Father, and again I say praying for your children, praying for your grandchildren, praying for others. I think about all these kids in high school and junior high school and kids growing up in grammar school and you ask 'em, "What are you gonna do when you grow up"? That's what we used to ask. What are you gonna do when you grow up? "Well, I don't know". The tragedy is to ask a college student who's getting ready to graduate in about three months, "Well, what are you gonna do"? "I don't know".
Can you imagine spending about forty thousand or fifty thousand dollars of your parents' money and you don't have any idea of what you're gonna do? I don't believe that God is holding back His will and purpose and plan for our life unless we have decided what we're not gonna do. We're gonna have it our way. We rebel against God, then He will withhold it. But if I am surrendered to Him, I don't believe God wants us to spend our time going to school and getting an education to do what? "Well, I don't know". "Well, what did you major in"? "Well, I majored in business, I majored in education, or I majored in teaching, education". "Well, what are you gonna do"? "I don't have any idea".
Now friend, listen, that's a tragedy. To come that far in life and not have any earthly idea what God wants you to do. To know His will, listen, to know His will and to walk in His will in a manner that's worthy of us, in order that, listen, in order to do what? In order that our life won't be wasted. In order that, listen, we can invest our life. You see, busyness is not a wise investment of life necessarily. And all works aren't good works. And He said that you and I may walk in a manner that's pleasing to Him. And He says that, listen, that we may bear fruit in good works. It is the will of God that your life and mine be fruitful. That means we're not to live for ourselves. We don't belong to ourselves, we belong to Him. That is, the overflow of our life should be good works. The overflow of our life should not only be the character of Christ. The overflow of our life should be good works. That is, listen, involved in, committed to, actively carrying out, actively involved in doing something that brings glory to God and has eternal value.
Well, somebody says, "Well, I'll tell you now. Wait a minute. I have to work every day. Five days a week I have to work and"... Well, let me ask you this: "You work eight hours there, what do you do with the other sixteen hours"? I'm not talking about quitting your job. I'm not talking about the fact that you should necessarily change your vocation. I'm not saying you should not meet the needs of your family because God wants you to. But what about those other sixteen hours? That is, what other the time, listen, besides that time you have to work to make a living, what are you doing in those other hours, that has lasting value? That's making any kind of impact? That you're having any good influence on someone else. That you're giving yourself away to God in some fashion, in some way, for His glory and for the good of someone else and also for your own good.
I think many people, for example, who get depressed and get discouraged and down in the dumps, that's where they live, it's written all over them. If they'd get out of, listen, you can get out of the dumps when you give yourself away to God to serve somebody else, you get out of the dumps. A lot of folks are in the dumps, they've just gotten there because of their selfishness and self-centeredness. He says we're to pray for people to bear, listen, to bear fruit in good works. That is, be, listen, not just being busy, being fruitful. I can be very, very busy without being fruitful. I can stay busy doing nothing that has any lasting or eternal value. And so I just want to ask you this morning, ask yourself the question: God, in any given day, how much time in any given day do I do something that has lasting, eternal value? How often in a given week do I do anything that has lasting, eternal value?
Well, you say, "You're talking about preaching"? No, I'm not. I'm talking about all the multitudes of things that you and I can do that have lasting value. Here's a godly mother who sits down with her children and reads a Bible story. Here's a father who kneels down beside the bed and prays with his children. Here is a man or a woman on their job who's witnessing and sharing their faith and talking to people about Jesus Christ. There are many, many ways. Whether you're a homemaker or businessman, whether you're president or whether you're working, you're just putting on bolts eight hours a day. Listen, you've got sixteen other hours. We have to decide how we're gonna spend our life. And here's the tragedy of tragedies, when I think about multitudes of people, even many who are saved who just sorta, listen, they go to church, they listen to sermons, they say, "Well, praise the Lord, I got helped by that maybe". And then they spend the rest of that week just floating through life.
Where's the sense of direction? Do you know God's will and purpose and plan for your life at this point? You say, "Well, but I'm sixty years of age or seventy years of age and my life's almost gone". No, it's not gone. Listen, you want to live a little longer? Then act like you're gonna make your life count and I believe God'll answer that, I believe God'll respond. God, listen, why should God keep you on this earth if all you're gonna do is just float? Just sorta floating through life. God made you. He says He predestined us unto good works. He said in John chapter fifteen, for example, he said we're to bear fruit, more fruit, much fruit, fruit bearing. Listen, fruit bearing is the will of God, the purpose of God, the plan of God. And when I think about, for example, how many singles we have, how many college students we have, how much awesome potential is wrapped up in all these students and all these singles who have time on their hands. And they have education, they have hours, they have skills, they have abilities.
Let me ask you: What in this world under the name of Almighty God, whose banner you walk under, what are you doing? Listen, what are you doing with your life? Are you investing it, or are you wasting it? Don't waste a minute. Don't waste an hour. Don't waste a day or a week or a month or years of your life. There are multitudes of people who are just floating through life, they're wasting their life, wasting their life. They've become so self-centered, they don't think about helping other people and doing something for someone else. There are multitudes of things to be done for the glory of God in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ that would be extremely helpful for other people.
When you and I pray for someone else, we should pray for our children: Lord, make their life count. Listen, why live your life, why raise up children if their life is not gonna count? Just to, listen, to grow up in this godless world, this evil, sinful, wicked, vile world. If they make it through this world, they've done something absolutely fantastic. Then why not, listen, intrench within them the Spirit of God, instill within their hearts a desire to be used of God, instill within their hearts a desire to know the will of God, the purpose of God, the plan of God, and to walk in it in their life. Listen, when you and I understand what God's purpose and plan for our life is, listen, all the engines start up, all the, listen, all the motors go because all of a sudden, there's a sense of purpose.
You say, "Well, but I'm forty years of age and I don't have any sense of purpose". Then I want to challenge you to get on your knees and tell God whatever it costs, you want to find out what His will is, what His plan is. You don't want to waste your life and you don't want to spend your life. You want it wisely invested in such a fashion so that when you meet Him or before you meet Him, one of these days you turn around and you look and you don't see an empty pathway of sand. You see rock instilled. You see something that made a difference. You see something that lasted because you were willing to give yourself away to someone else.
A kid, listen, I've never had anybody turn a deaf ear to me when I said to them, "Let me tell you what God did in my life," nobody! I've never had, listen, even some pretty wicked, vile people who had no interest in God, when I've said to them, "Well, let me tell you how God spoke to my life or let me tell you what He's worked in my life," I've never heard anybody say, "I don't want to hear how God worked in your life," you know why? Because, listen, they're anxious to find out: Is your God real? If He's real, tell me what He's doing. Where's the evidence that God's real in your life? They're willing to listen. You have potential, you've got something to give, and I'll tell you, I'm praying for this entire fellowship. God, raise up a group of godly people whose life, their lives are fruitful, their life will make a difference, their life will make an impact every day of their life.
And you know what I'm expecting? I'm expecting God to answer my prayer. So if you get the fidgets and you get the feeling of pressure, you get to feeling guilty, good! That means that God's answering my prayer because, listen, you have awesome potential in your life. And so, when you and I pray, if we pray for someone to know the will of God, to walk, listen, to walk in the character of our Lord Jesus Christ and, as he says here, in every good work, in every good work.
Now, that next request is, he says that they might increase in the knowledge of God, how I do love that. Listen, increasing in the knowledge of God. What does he mean by that? That a person would just gain more and more facts about God. No, that's not what he's talking about. He's not talking about gaining facts. When he talks about increasing in the knowledge of God, growing, and when we talk growing in the Lord, that means, listen, if I'm growing, I'm moving. If I'm growing, I'm moving forward. If I'm growing, I am attaining, I'm possessing, something good's going on in the inside of me if I'm growing in the Lord. The word in the Greek really is to increase in our knowledge of God.
Now, there are a lot of people who have increased in their knowledge of God over the years as they've studied and studied and studied. That's not what that means. Not just, listen, not just head knowledge, but increasing in the knowledge of God. Listen, experientially. That is, what do I know about Him that I didn't used to know? What do I understand about God I didn't understand in my daily walk, in my experience, in my troubles and trials and heartaches and burdens? Those things I can't fix, those things I try to fix. What do I know about Him? How much more do you know about Him today than you knew a month ago or a year ago or six months ago?
You say, "Well, I don't, you know, how do you learn these things"? Well, let me give you a little personal illustration of something that happened to me. You know, I've been away for a couple of weeks, and went to see my daughter and her family. And we have three grandchildren out from Becky. Jonathan is seven and little Annie's five and Matthew's three. And so, each night I would kneel down by the bed and chat with them and talk with them. And so one night I was kneeling down beside the bed with little Annie, and we were talking and I said, "Annie," I said, "did you know that God will speak to you"? Well, that got her five-year-old heart and mind to thinking, and so she wanted to know how God would speak, and she said, "Now," she says, "Will I hear Him"? I said, "Yeah". She said, "You mean He'll speak out loud"? I said, "Well, I doubt that". Well, then she wanted to know how she could hear Him if He didn't speak out loud. And I could say to her, "It'll be louder than out loud. He'll speak to your heart".
And so I just began to try to speak as childlike as I could to help her to understand that God, a loving heavenly Father, loves her enough that at a very early age, He would speak to her heart. Well, she had lots of questions, and some of them I'd have to say, "Well, you know what, I can't answer it". "When's, Gimps, when's He gonna do it"? Now, Gimps is my name because they couldn't say gramps. So, "Gimps, when's He gonna speak"? "I don't know". "Well, what will He say"? "I don't know that either". I said, "I'll tell you this, though". "Well," she said, "well, how will I know if I don't hear Him"? She had all these good questions that I'd have been asking. And so I had to say, "You know what, I don't know when He's gonna speak and I don't know how, but I can tell you this: your tender little heart will know when God has spoken to you. You'll know it's not somebody else, you'll know it's God".
I wanted to plant that truth in her heart. I wanted her to think as a five-year-old, this awesome God whom she knows very little about compared to what most of us would know about God, she knows very little about except that He's good and that He loves her and that He takes care of her and protects her and provides for her and has given her godly parents. She knows some things about God. But she doesn't know some other things about Him. But I wanted to be sure that she heard me because they'll watch the program out there, so I want her to see me, I don't care whether she listens to all the sermon or not. I don't expect her to. I just want her to see me and remember one thing. Gimp said God would speak to my heart. I want her to remember that today and tomorrow and next week, next month, next year, when she's in junior high school, high school, college, for the rest of her life: God'll speak to my heart.
So I said to her, "Now, here's what you pray". I said, "You pray, Father, speak to my heart". I said, "That's all you have to pray". She says, "Well, that's all I have to pray"? And she asked me two or three other questions. I said, "That's all you have to pray. Father, speak to my heart". And of course, she again wanted to know, how will I know? I said, "You know what, I can't tell you that but I know that you'll know". I just wanted this to get deep down inside of her. She could never escape it. Well, how do I know she took it serious? Because the next day she told her brother, Jonathan, seven years old. She said, "Jonathan, you know, God'll speak to your heart. In fact, Gimps told me that God was gonna talk to me, God was gonna speak to me".
Now, I don't know what his response was, doesn't matter. Then she told her three-year-old brother. She said, "Matthew, Gimps said God would speak to me and I'm listening". And she said, "God's gonna speak to me". Then she told her mother. Then she told her father. She told every member of her family, God would speak to her and she was listening and that she knew what to pray. Do you think God isn't gonna speak to that gal? Absolutely! God will speak to her heart. Listen, He will help her understand the simple things. And you know what, when I think about how simple a little child is and how so open they are to the truth of God's Word. You know what, when I think about a tender-hearted child, who says, "Father, speak to my heart". God doesn't have to get through all the stubbornness and the rebellion and the indifference and the unbelief and the doubts and the fears and... He doesn't have to get through all that stuff like He has to get through us.
A child's heart, when you say to this child, "God will speak to you". I can tell you what, I wish I could be around the moment in her life when she knows that when she asks God something, God spoke to her heart. You just think about praying: Lord, that my son or my daughter; my grandchildren; my friend; my brother; this student who is in trouble, who needs to know you, and who's going through some difficulty and hardship and trial and they don't understand what's going on. Lord, that they may in this understand who You are. That they may, listen, that they may increase, listen, in this difficult, trying, hurtful, painful time in their life, Lord. Listen, don't always pray for God to remove pain and heartache and problems because sometimes that, listen, sometimes that is God's platform. Sometimes that is the atmosphere. Sometime that's the field that God is using to do what? To bring them to an understanding of who He is, to bring them to an understanding.
I think all of us will acknowledge a fact that when we are hurting and the pain's there, we are the most open to hear from God. Well, sometimes pain, heartache, troubles, trials, difficulties, listen, He doesn't say in here relieve them from any of that. He says, "Fill them with the knowledge of your will, walk in a character that's similar to our Lord, bearing good fruit in every season". Fruit, labors, knowledge, he said, increasing in the knowledge of God. So let me ask you a question. Is that a desire in your heart, to increase in your knowledge of God? Listen, are you just satisfied being a Christian? Are you just satisfied knowing a few things? And I've heard people say, "Well, you know, I know I'm saved and I'm going to Heaven and that's enough". No, it's not enough. I want to say something else. If you're satisfied with just knowing that you're gonna get saved, there's something big missing in your life, my friend.
Ask yourself the purpose, why did God save me? Not because you deserved it. Why did God save you? Because He loved you and because He, listen, because He wanted to so live His life in and through you that you would become, listen, that you would become a living witness of who He is. That He would be glorified in your life and that He would make your life count. Just being saved is not enough. It will get you to Heaven but it won't get you where God wants you to be. And so God has something bigger than that. Then I want you to notice what else he prays. He prays for them and we should certainly pray for ourselves. But notice how He says it. He says, "Knowledge of God, strengthened with all power according to His glorious might".
Why is that important? Because first of all, without God's intervention in my life, I won't know His will. I certainly will not be able to walk in a relationship with Him that is certainly indicative of who He is in my life. I certainly will not be able to bear any real fruit that has any real, lasting value to it. And I certainly could not know who God is without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. You and I have been so blessed to be indwelt by Almighty God Himself. And notice he says here, "Strengthened with all power". Listen now, he says, "According to His glorious might or strength". Not strengthened in my own energy, not strengthened in my own abilities and talents, but strengthened by the presence of God, relying upon Him, trusting in Him.
And I think one of the prayers that we could pray for others for whom we're concerned is: God, don't let them trust in their own strength. Lord, listen, drive them to their knees until they desperately have to depend upon you and rely upon you. And before You humble themselves to cry out, God, strengthen me and energize me and anoint me, God. Don't let me do it in my own strength. You know why he prayed that prayer? Because what we do in our own strength doesn't get very far. Energy runs out, wisdom is very poor. And so what do we need? We need the power of God. And He says here, "According to His glorious might" to emphasize the fact that it's His power and His strength and His might, not our own. And when I think about people that I see that are going through difficulty and hardship, what do they need?
Listen to what he said, "Strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience". There are times when you and I need to pray for other people, that they be strengthened, what? Steadfast means that they are able to, listen, to bear up under that difficulty and hardship, not give in and not give up. I don't have to pray if it's God's will to pray for somebody to be strengthened in a difficult situation, a difficult circumstance in life. I don't have to ask God if that's His will. Likewise, when he said steadfast, he said also in patience. Being able to bear up without retaliation, being able to suffer hurt and pain and sorrow without retaliating on someone else. Strengthened by the power of His glorious might, God able to work in that person's life.
And then notice this last request he makes. He says, "Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in life". What in the world does that mean? Listen to that. Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints, joyously giving thanks. Is it not true that a joyous person who has a sense of gratitude is contagious? In other words, when you're around somebody who is joyous, a person who's grateful, there's something contagious about that kind of person. Then there's the cynic, one who is very ungrateful, a person who is not joyous but unhappy. They're just unhappy. If you ask 'em why, they don't know why they're unhappy, they're just unhappy. That's no testimony for our Lord. Joyously giving thanks. How can I do that? Only when I see everything as coming from God.
You see, here's what he's praying. He's praying that they may so understand the will of God in their lives and so walk in that, and so be strengthened by that, and so be fruitful in their life that they can see every situation in life, difficulties, hardships, listen, as an opportunity of bearing witness. As an opportunity of bearing fruit. Joyously giving thanks. Now, I don't mean, and I know that you can't always give joyous thanks immediately when difficulty and hardship and pain hits us on the blind side. Sometimes it knocks us for a little loop and we have to get up and say, "Okay, how am I to respond to this"? Joyously giving thanksgiving because, listen, because of the awesome, glorious, infinite, supernatural power that is on the inside of every believer.
Listen, God's not gonna send anything in your way, in your life that He won't enable you to face. He's not gonna ask you to do anything He won't enable you to do. This prayer is an awesome prayer of God's absolute, total sufficiency, and He is the center of this prayer. Look at this. Listen to what he says. He says, now here's the prayer, "That you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with all power, to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience," he says, "joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He delivered us". God-centered.
Now, let me ask you a question. How much of our praying, how much of our praying's God-centered? How much of it's problem-centered? How much of it is self-centered? How much of it is person-centered? Even though He mentions some other things, it is God, God, God, God is the source. And when you and I come to Him to pray this prayer for someone, God is listening, why? Because He wants to do every single one of these things. Now, listen to what He says in that twelfth verse, "Giving thanks joyously to the Father," and he says here's the motivation. You see, how can I give thanks in difficult times and hardship times? He says here's a reason. Because number one, He says you have been qualified. Look at that. He says you have been qualified. Qualified, he says, to share in the inheritance of the saints. That is, God, by His grace and goodness and love and mercy saving us, making us one of His children, He's qualified us for reward.
The second motivation, he says, is this. He says he delivered us from the domain of darkness. What does that mean? That when you and I were saved, we were taken out of the realm of Satan and under his control and placed in the realm of light, under the control of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, listen, now we have Him as our Lord and master. Listen, we have a reward waiting for us. Now we're walking, listen, we're walking in His power, in His light. He says redeemed. That means that we've been purchased by the blood of Jesus at Calvary in such a fashion that we are no longer the slaves of sin but we have been freed. And he says the forgiveness of sin is the fourth thing there. He says our guilt and our, listen, our guilt and the penalty of our sins have been put away.
Now, you think about this. I don't believe anybody can pray that prayer for someone else consistently without God doing a mighty work in their life, lest they resist and resist and resist. And the longer, listen, the longer we pray that, the more prideful and arrogant and rebellious they're gonna become. Or they are going to, listen, they're going to weaken under the loving pressure of God. Are there people who will resist? Yes, they will. And there are people I've prayed for and prayed for and prayed for, have they yielded? No, they have not. Not yet. But you see, when do we give up? We don't quit, we don't give up. And so we have to ask ourselves the question: Lord, is that what I need in my life? Yes, it is. I want to know God's will. I want to walk in that kind of character. I want to be sure that my life is fruitful. I want to do it, I want to serve Him in His strength. I want to grow in my understanding and knowledge of who He is.
And I certainly want to joyously thank Him for everything. If I told you that I could joyfully thank Him for everything, just like that, it wouldn't be true. Sometimes I have to work up to it. I have to say, "Okay, Lord, I know what's going on. I don't like what's happening. It's painful, I don't like it. Would You please remove it? I know You're not going to till You get good and ready". So I've just sorta come to this conclusion. Why ask Him to remove anything out of my life till He gets ready, because you know what? He's gonna leave it there until He finishes doing what He's doing. So don't waste your time saying, "God, get rid of this and get rid of that". But rather, "Lord, enable me by Your strength to joyously thank You for what I feel no matter how painful, how hurtful it might be".
Now, listen, you can do one of two things. You can listen to this and go away and say, "Well, heard a sermon today". If that's all you'll say, you'll be a, listen, you'll be a lifetime loser. And worse than that, the people you could've prayed for will also be a loser. Now, you think about this. There are some people, probably many people, who do not have anybody to pray for them. Nobody. If you were to ask somebody that you work with tomorrow, if you said, "Who's praying for you"? They'd probably say, "What? What do you mean, who's praying for me"? That's how foreign it would sound to them. "Who's praying for me? Nobody's praying for me. Oh, I don't think... who'd pray for me? Who cares, I don't need somebody else's prayers". I've heard all kind of stuff.
You know what, there's no such thing as anybody not needing someone to pray for them. Now, my friend, listen. It doesn't make any difference where someone is on the face of this globe or up in space, according to Almighty God who does not lie, He will answer this prayer. Here's what He says. If we make any petition according to His will, He hears us. And if we know He hears us, we know that we have the petition we desire of Him. I may not get it soon, I may get it late. It may not happen till after I'm gone. It may be that someone can resist and resist and resist and resist and rebel and rebel and rebel till my prayer, listen, my prayer, as effective as it may be, may never change them. I'm not gonna tell you that I guarantee you God'll change everybody you pray for. I can't do that.
I can tell you one thing, though. Listen to this carefully. If they never yield, I will be richer, richer, richer, richer, why? Because my prayer for them merited reward in glory. But not only that, it kept me sensitive to my Lord about His will for my life and His work in my life, and my knowledge of Him and His strength in my life. And all the things that go on and all the things that are mentioned in this prayer. There's no way, listen, there is no way to lose praying this prayer for someone else. And I believe most of the time, the vast majority of the time, if you and I will trust God with that prayer, He will make a difference in someone's life.
So let me ask you this. How many of you sitting out there, if you were really honest, would say, "You know, I can't name anybody that I know is praying for me. I wish somebody would". Well, I'm gonna pray for you right now. And I'm gonna believe that, beginning at this very moment, God is going to begin to work in your heart, especially, listen, He will begin instantly if you will say to Him, "Lord, I'm gonna listen to this prayer and I want You to do this in my life". Then, my friend, one thing for certain, anytime anybody opens their heart, I can guarantee you, you open your heart to Him, God will answer this prayer in your behalf. I'm gonna pray for you right now.
Father, in Jesus's name, I just ask You that every single person who's heard this message, every single person, Father, who hears this message, that each of these requests may become a living reality in their life, that they'll understand Your will and the fullness of it. They will walk in the likeness of the Savior. They will be able to invest their life and not spend it. They will grow in their understanding and knowledge of You. They will be able to be strengthened by You and they will grow to be able to joyously give thanks to You for every aspect of their life. Father, in Jesus's name, make this prayer of Colossians a living reality in every single person's life, in Jesus's name, amen.