Robert Jeffress - The Perfect Prayer - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Have you ever started praying for someone but found yourself at a loss for words? Maybe you want to bring your kids before God's throne of grace but you're not sure what to ask for. Perhaps you have a friend who's struggling but your prayer seem misguided or shallow, or maybe you need prayer but you don't know where to start. Well, today I'm going to give you a biblical blueprint for a life transforming communication with God. My message is titled "The Perfect Prayer" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
The thing I want most for my child is blank. How would you fill in that blank? What is it that you desire most for your children? Excellence and athletic pursuits? Good academic skills? Success in their careers? A fulfilling marriage? Freedom from many kinds of difficulties in life? How you would answer that question reveals what you value most in life. Now growing up, I never had any doubt about what my parents most wanted for me. In my parents' bedroom there's a picture of my brother and sister and me, and underneath those pictures was this verse from 3 John 1:4, "I have no greater joy than this than to hear my children are walking in truth". I knew from the beginning that what my parents wanted most for me was that I would conduct my life in a way that was obedient to God. They knew that every good blessing in life flowed out of a right relationship with God. Paul expressed that same thought about his spiritual children, the Christians at Colossae.
If you have your Bibles this morning I want you to turn to Colossians chapter 1 as we discover what we ought to pray most for our children, for our mates, and even for ourselves. We're going to look at what I've called "The perfect prayer". Colossians 1, in this letter Paul was writing to his spiritual children in Colossae. He had never seen them before but felt a special kinship with them because they were an outgrowth with his ministry in Ephesus. And so in the opening verses, verses three to eight, Paul expresses his excitement, his gratitude for what was taking place in their lives. He said, "I'm so grateful for the good news I've heard about you, about specifically your faith in Christ, your love for other Christians, the hope you have for the future". But then when we get to verse 9, Paul was going to voice his prayer request for the Colossians. And what I want you to notice in this passage is he mentions three specific things he was praying for these Christians at Colossae.
And again, these are the things we ought to be praying for our children and grandchildren. It's what we ought to desire and pray for and our mate and it's what we ought to strive for in our own life. Look beginning at verse 9. Paul says, "For this reason also, since the day we heard of it," now what does he mean the day we heard of it? Heard of what? Well that relates back to verse 4. "Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love you have for all of the saints". "Since we heard of your faith in Christ," Paul says, "We have not ceased to pray for you". Have you ever had people say to you, "Oh, I'm praying for you," and deep down you wonder, "Are you really"? I mean, do you even think about me much less pray for me? That's kinda become a standard greeting we say to people, "Oh, I'm praying for ya".
How many times have you said to somebody, "I'm praying for you" when you never even think about the person much less pray for them? And when Paul said this, "Now, Colossians, I'm always praying for you. I've never ceased to pray for you," how do we know that Paul just wasn't using some pastoral hyperbole here? What did he mean he never cease to pray for them? We have to understand Paul's perspective about prayer. These words are similar to what he said in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 when he said, "Pray without ceasing". Paul said our whole life ought to be one of praying without ceasing. That praise without ceasing in Greek literally means pray with the frequency of a hacking cough. You know what I'm talking about? How those coughs come and you just can't suppress it. It just comes and it comes and it comes. That's what Paul says prayer ought to be.
You see, to Paul prayer was not just some ritualistic duty to try to squeeze into an overcrowded schedule. For Paul prayer was just a way of existing. It was conversing with God. It was a continuous conversation with God. And that's how Paul said, "We are to pray not just for a few minutes every day, it's a way we conduct our lives conversing with God". Thomas Kelly once wrote that there is a way to order our lives so that we're doing several things at the same time. One one level we're going through our daily responsibilities but at the same time on a higher plane, we're carrying out a conversation with God. We're like job who said, "I have set the Lord ever before me".
You know, to keep this conversation going with God means that we have to always have a consciousness of God's presence. And Paul did, and we are as well. I mean, whenever we meet somebody or in a conversation with somebody, we're asking, God, how do you want me to minister to this person? Whenever you face a temptation, you're praying, "God, give me the power to say no to this". Whenever you're going through a difficult circumstance, or you've encountered difficult people, you're talking to God about it, "God, give me the supernatural strength to do this". And that's what he's talking about, to pray without ceasing. And when Paul says, "We've never ceased to pray for you," Paul is saying every time you come to mind, Colossians, and it's often, I pray for you. But notice he says, "Not only do we pray for you," he said, "We pray for you and ask that".
Paul said, I'm going to tell you exactly how I'm praying for you. There's great wisdom in that by the way. Any time we tell somebody we're praying for them if we're telling the truth, we ought to tell them exactly how we're praying for them. I have a prayer partner here in the church, one of my prayer pastor's prayer partners. He's always saying to me, "Pastor, I'm praying for you". But he doesn't stop there, he tells me specifically what he's praying for. "Pastor, I'm praying for you that you preach order sermons". I mean, he tells me what he's specifically praying for me. Now we ought to do that when we're praying for our children. We say, "Honey, I am praying for you that you have the courage to stand alone. I pray for you that you have the power to say no to temptation". We ought to tell our mates, "I prayed for you this morning that you would be encouraged today in a special way".
That's what Paul did. He said, "I am praying for you," and notice the three things he mentions he is praying for the Colossian Christians. First of all he said, "I pray that you would know the will of God". He says in verse nine, "I want you to be filled with the knowledge of God's will". That word fill literally means to be controlled. I want you to know and be controlled by the will of God for your life. Now what does Paul mean the will of God? Whenever the Bible uses the phrase, "The will of God," it usually is used in reference to one of two aspects of the will of God. Sometimes the phrase, "The will of God" is referring to the general will of God. God's will for every person. For example, part of God's general will for everyone is that they be saved, that they trust in Christ.
In 1 Timothy 2:3 and 4, Paul said, "For this is acceptable on the side of God, our Savior, who desires that all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth". As my professor dr. Ryrie used to say, put that in your Calvinist pipe and smoke on it for a while. God desires not just that some people be saved, God's desire is that all people be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. That doesn't mean that everyone is going to be saved but God desires that as many be saved as possible, not as few be saved as possible. That's part of God's will for your life. And by the way, he says, "That comes that knowledge of God's will only comes through wisdom and through understanding". You don't come to salvation in your own wisdom and understanding.
In fact 1 Corinthians 1:18 to 21 says that man's wisdom is completely different from God's wisdom when it comes to salvation. Man's wisdom said man is basically good and may need just a little cleaning up, God's wisdom says man is completely evil and needs saving. Man's wisdom says that we're saved by good works. God's wisdom says we are saved by God's grace. Man's wisdom says everyone is going to heaven. God's wisdom says only a few are going to heaven. God's will for everyone is that they would be saved. Here's another part of God's general will for everyone. It's found in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 and four, and that is we would be sanctified. Listen to this, for this is the will of God, your sanctification. That word sanctification means to set aside for a special purpose. God says, my will for you if you're a Christian is that you understand God has saved you and he has set you aside for a special purpose. And he goes on to say, "That is, that you abstain from sexual immorality: that each of you may know how to posses his own vessel and sanctification and honor". God wants you as a believer to live a separate kind of existence.
So when Paul says, "Colossians, I'm praying that you know the will of God," he's talking about the general will of God but he's also talking about the specific will of God. Not only does God have a general will for your life, he has a specific blueprint for your life. How many of you believe God loves you enough that he has a plan for your life? He does. The Bible teaches every day of our life has been numbered by God, every day has been planned in his book before we ever lived one of those days. God has a plan for your life. It is a good plan and it is the key to experiencing joy, fulfillment, contentment in life. Now the question is you all say you believe God has a specific plan for your life, how are you going to discover what that plan is? You read the read the tea leaves, open up the newspaper, read the horoscope, talk to this person, that person. How in the world are you going to discover what that good perfect plan of God is for your life?
Well, Paul tells us in verse nine how we understand the will of God. And there are three words he uses here: knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Now, what's funny is remember the gnostics, they use those words in their false religion. They talked about this deeper knowledge, or their special wisdom, or this hidden understanding that only they, the gnostics had. Well, Paul turns this words around on them. He said, yeah, knowledge, understanding, wisdom, those are all important words. But let me tell you what they really mean. If you want to know God's will for your life, it starts with knowledge. Knowledge, write that done on your outline. Knowledge. If you don't hear another word I say, hear this, the starting place for knowing the will of God is knowing the Word of God. The Bible says this book is the beginning place to know God's will, his plan for your life.
Remember Psalm 119:105, "Thy word is a lamp into my feet and it is a light unto my path". And it's true, you can know more God's word than you ever apply in your life, but it is impossible to apply more of God's word in your life than you know. The beginning place to knowing God's will is to know God's word. And unfortunately people today are woefully ignorant of the Word of God. I was reading this week a survey by George Barna, the great scandal of the church today is the biblical illiteracy that is running rampant among Christians. Christians today are woefully ignorant of the Word of God. For example in his survey Barna found that 82% of Americans believe that the phrase "God helps those who help themselves" is actually a verse in the Bible. 82% of Americans believe that's in the Bible.
You say, "Well, that's Americans, not Christians". Christians don't fair any better. 81% of born again Christians believe those words are in the Bible. God helps those who help themselves, but Paul also revealed some other troubling statistics. That Paul indicated that at least 12% of adults believed that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. 50% of graduating high school seniors believe that Sodom and Gomorrah were a husband and wife in the Bible, and an alarmingly high number of born again Christians believe that the Sermon on the Mount was delivered by Billy Graham. Now you know that would be humorous if it were not so tragic. In Hosea 4:6 God said, "My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge". The Bible says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish". By the way, that word vision doesn't mean foresight. It doesn't mean having the foresight for a building campaign in the church. To have vision in the Bible, the word vision means a revelation from God. Where there is no word from God, the people perish. You can never know God's will apart from God's word.
Now, I want you to know, I'm just doing more than flapping my jaw about this right now. I believe this is so important for our church, for our people who come here every week, Sunday morning, Sunday school, church, Sunday evening. I think it is important that we stop, pause, and really measure how much of God's word our people know. I think we would be shocked at how little our people know of the Word of God. And one of the things I'm praying through right now, one of the things I'm thinking through is what can we do to make sure we are fulfilling the task of instilling the knowledge of God's word in our people. The Bible says it is the starting place for knowing God's will, knowledge. But knowledge alone isn't enough to know God's will for your life. The fact is knowledge by itself puffs up a person, Paul said in 1 Corinthians. There's a second word here Paul uses and that is the word wisdom. Wisdom. Wisdom refers to the ability to find the principles from God's word that apply to our lives. It's not just reading the Bible as ancient history and understanding the Greek and Hebrew word meanings. It means finding those principles that apply to us today 2.000 years later, 3.000 years later.
Let me give you an example of that. Turn over to Colossians 4:1. Paul writes, he says, "Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a master in heaven". Now in your Bible study you could read that verse. You could read the background of the verse and realize that two-thirds of the worlds was slave at that time. You could do a word study of justice and fairness and find out that justice means to compensate adequately because slaves were paid in Paul's day. Fairness means to deal equitably with them, to treat everyone using the same standard. So you could say, "Okay, this means that people who owns slaves in Paul's day were to pay them right and treat the fairly". But so what? I mean, you're not living in Paul's day. That means nothing to you and me unless you find the principle that applies to us. What's the principle for us? Mean, you may say, "I don't have a slave".
Some of you who are employees feel like you're a slave of your employer. It's not a one-to-one correspondence but there is a principle that you can derive out of that, and that is if you are an employer, Paul is saying you have a duty to make sure you are compensating your employees adequately. And not only that, you're to treat them equitably. It doesn't mean you treat everybody the same but what it does mean is you use the same standards by which to judge every employee. You're even handed in your treatment of your employees. That's what wisdom is, it's finding those timeless principles from God's word. But then there's a third word that's key to finding God's will for your life, not just to know God's word and to understand or define the principles but the third word is understanding. Understanding. In all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And that word understanding is different from wisdom.
There's a nuance here. The idea is okay, now that I know the principle, how am I going to apply it to my life? What do I need to do differently because of this truth I just discovered that employees are to treat their, or employers are to treat their employees with justice and fairness? And I may say, "Holy Spirit, show me what I need to do differently". And as a result of reading this and finding the timeless principles, I may say, "You know what, I need to give my employees a 5% raise. They're underpaid, I need to give them a 5% raise". Staff, don't get excited. This is just an illustration, okay? But you may say, "That's one step of action I need to take". Or maybe there's an employee that you've been overly harsh with, you've been holding him to a stricter standard than your other employee and you say, "I need to be more even handed and equitable in my entreatment of that employee, and I'm going to start doing that". That's what it means to have understanding.
Now, notice how this works. A knowledge comes from God's word, but wisdom and understanding comes from God's spirit. And God's spirit and God's word work together to reveal the will of God to us in our life. It's like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:13, "The Holy Spirit combines spiritual words from the Bible with spiritual thoughts from the Holy Spirit". Remember what we said in our series on the Holy Spirit? The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to reveal the will of God so that we can be conformed to the image of God. Paul said, "My prayer for you, Colossians, is that you would know not just the general but the specific will of God for your life". Why? Well, that leads to the second prayer second prayer request in verse 10. So that you might obey the commands of God. Look at verse 10. So that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord to please him in all prospects, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.
Some people say, "Oh, Lord, show me your will. I want to know your will for my life," while secretly thinking, "So I can decide whether I want to obey it or not". It's not optional for a child of God. The only reason to know God's will is so that you can do it. So that you can walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. That word walk means to conduct your life in a way that's worthy of the Lord. Dr. George w. Truett who is pastor of this church for 50 years stood behind this pulpit for 50 years, said, "Success is knowing the will of God and doing it". There's a difference just between knowing it and knowing it and doing it. And Paul says, "The blessings that come in life come from not just knowing God's word but doing the will of God". Look again at verse 10, "So that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord to please him in all respects". That is the heart desire of every true Christian: to please God. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:9, “therefore, we have as our ambition in life whether here or at home to be pleasing to God.”