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Intercessary Prayer

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Colossians 1:9-11                     April 22, 2007

Back several years ago a young missionary named Raymond Edman staggered into a hospital out of an Ecuadorian jungle, desperately ill. 

The doctor predicted that he would be dead by the morning.  Edman’s wife dyed her wedding dress black in preparation.

A 1,000 miles away in Boston, a friend of Edman, Dr. Joseph Evans interrupted a prayer meeting, saying, “I feel the need to pray for Ray Edman in Ecuador.”

The group prayed earnestly that night and later found that Raymond was deathly sick and recovered that night.  Sadly, however, his wife’s dress did not.

Dr. Edman went on to become the president of Wheaton Bible College and there he ministered for some 40 years.

This morning, from our passage I would like to speak to you on the power and blessings of intercessorary prayer.

We see in our text a prayer of Paul for a people he heard about, but never had personally met.  Paul had heard of the heresies of Gnosticism that had threatened the church; and so he centers his prayers to meet the spiritual needs of others.

Often times a missionary will call or send to the church their information, looking for an opportunity to present their ministry.

I will allow them to come, but will tell them up front that the church is not able to take on any new missionaries at this time.

And always they will respond saying in so many words, “That’s okay, we just want to present our ministry to gain prayer support.”

Do you want a rewarding ministry?  Take one of our missionaries on personally, to pray for them on a regular basis.  Correspond by writing a letter or sending an e-mail to learn about them and their needs, so you can pray.

Don’t allow Satan to give you excuses: I’m too busy, or I don’t know them.  That is why you are to write, so as to get to know them.   Then there’s the excuse: I’m hurting and need to be ministered to, so how can I minister to others?

You know the fastest way to find spiritual strength and healing, is to reach out and touch someone else.

Be a blessing to someone else and you’ll be blessed.

The rewards will not only be laid up in heaven for you.  They will be seen in you, as the joy of the Lord, a freshness that will give you strength for the day.  Simply put you will feel good about what you’re doing.

This is exactly what Paul is doing in our text, where his ministry to these believers, is one of intercession.

But before we get into the text, turn back with me to Phil. 4:11.  Paul is dealing with a financial issue, but the principle applies here:  “…for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” 

That contentment does not come from self-satisfaction; it comes through having a purpose, even an avenue of ministry.

Paul is in prison at this time, and it would be very easy for him to become despondent and filled with despair.

Yet in this letter there is a positive outlook from Paul.  He finds contentment certainly within his faith in the Lord.  But Paul’s strength in the face of adverse circumstances is his ministry to others, including to the Colossians.

So Paul is interceding to God on behalf of brethren he never met; concerning 3 specific needs.  This becomes a prayer, we can pray to the Lord behalf of others around us; whether we know them personally or not.

I.           A NEED FOR KNOWLEDGE. Col.1:9

Last week we spoke of the dangers of different opinions or persuasions that would lead believers in Colosse to stray from the Lord.  It’s a danger for us today as well.

Paul is praying that their knowledge of God’s will would be in “all wisdom and spiritual understanding.”  It s absolutely wrong to think, its God’s will for you to do something, so you make a major decision without knowing or understanding the thing you are to do.

Someone once told me, I’ll be like Abraham wondering until God gives me direction.  That’s not spiritual, it’s foolishness.  God gave to Abraham directions when He called Abraham, telling him where he was to go.

Abraham’s wondering was in the promise land, a land he did not possess or own.  Still he walked in the wisdom and understanding of that calling.  He knew God was going to give him (and his descendants) this land.  For Abraham this was about faith, not a leap in the dark, walking about blindly.

Paul is fervently praying for the Colossians “since the day we heard it…”  What did Paul hear that led him to pray?  V.4, “Since we heard of your faith…” 

You see, Paul knew that a spiritual knowledge is the foundation that is needed, if we are to live a fruitful and blessed Christian life.

The word in v.9 “filled” means to be “controlled by.”

In Eph. 5:18, when Paul says we are to “be filled with the Spirit”, he is saying we are to be controlled or lead by the Spirit.

So Paul’s prayer is that we be controlled by “the knowledge of His will…” this is not a leap in the dark, not knowing where we are going or what we are doing.

So how do we know what the will of God is, as it relates to you and me today, where the rubber meets the road?

This is a work of the Holy Spirit controlling us. Meaning, decisions we make must be about fulfilling God purposes in our lives rather than about our wants or desires. 

The Holy Spirit will impart to us wisdom and spiritual understanding or insight.  Only then we will have peace and contentment knowing God’s hand has led us and not ourselves.

So what is this “all wisdom” the Holy Spirit gives to us?  It’s not about, being a know it all.  It is being given clear direction so as to make a decision that is of God.  It’s having discernment so as to please God.

Whereas, “spiritual understanding” is the truth or principles we gain from God’s Word that becomes the basis for any decision we make. 

The result is, any decision we make, we can have peace and contentment, knowing God has lead us.  It’s here where we are free from the need to offer excuses to others.  So whatever, others may think, we know, we been led of the Lord.  Nothing else matters.

As we pray for others around us, as Paul, let us pray for:

II.         DAILY OBEDIENCE  Col.1:10

 

The false teachers of the Gnostics had boasted of a “superior knowledge” they said the Colossians were in need of.  Beyond the fact that their knowledge was false; it was a knowledge that did not relate to the daily life where the people lived 24/7.

There is a scholarship level of knowledge that only feeds the intellect and fails to minister to the heart and soul of a person.  As a teacher and preacher, I believe, we need both.

Yet it is the feeding of the heart and soul of a person where we touch the daily life that produces obedience.  At the same time a Christian can not exist or be strong in their faith, without knowledge of God and the Word of God.

Out of this knowledge grows our obedience.

Notice the sequence of Paul’s argument:

          v.9  A wisdom or knowledge

          v.10 A walk that is worthy

          v.10 A work that is fruitful

I can not work or serve God unless I am walking in obedience with Him; and I can not walk in obedience with Him if I am ignorant of His word and will.

Paul’s prayer: that we would learn God’s will, and be obedient to Him, so we would further work or serve our God.

It’s the never ending story:  The more knowledge we have of God’s word and will; the more worthy our walk or obedience will become; the more fruitful our work or service will become; with the greater knowledge of God being gained;…”

You see as Paul says in Phil. 3:13,14; we will never arrive on this side of eternity.  We will never in this life be able to say:

          I have all knowledge

          I am as worthy as I can be

          I am as fruitful as I can be

Why?  Because, we will always have something else to learn in word or deed so as to please our God.

Lastly, along with Paul may we minister to others by praying for growth in:

III.       GOD EMPOWERING STRENGTH   (Col.1:11)

On the space shuttle at take-off, there are two booster rockets that are set ablaze providing the thrust needed; to break earth’s gravity and put the shuttle into orbit.

God is NOT a booster rocket who is behind us, starting at salvation to help us live the Christian life, only at some point to let go of us and we are on our own. 

Jesus says in Matthew 28:20, “…And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the World.”    From the moment we are saved, to that face to face encounter with our God, Jesus is with us to strengthen us; notice “…with all might according to His glorious power”.

The disciples in Acts 1:8 were told to go to Jerusalem:  there they would be empowered by the Holy Ghost to be witnesses unto the Lord.

We can have a healthy knowledge of God’s will and the Word of God; and all that will do is produce guilt, if we fail to service the Lord as we ought.

Something else is missing today, as to why so many Christians fail to serve the Lord.  As if some booster rocket is spent, and now there is nothing to empower or strengthen them.

Consider Jesus:

Jesus lived with a perfect knowledge of the will of His Father and of the Word of God.

Jesus lived in absolute obedience to His Father.

Jesus also did the will of His Father, even by dying upon the cross in absorbing the wrath of God over sin.

Jesus was able to die in our place, as He was the just who knew no sin, dying for the sins of all mankind.

Now certainly Jesus was able to do all of these things because He is God, but the Heavenly Father was also with Him to empower Him.

We certainly are not God, but we do have the Holy Spirit of God indwelling us.  Remember our physical bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we are to use our physical bodies to glorify God (1 Cor. 6:19, 20).

We are not to live as we please or wish, but to do the good pleasure of the God who has bought us and saved us from sin.

In Romans 1:14 Paul put it this way, “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.”  For Paul it was to preach and teach the Word of God, for you it might be something else.

The point is, God calls all of us to some ministry and promises to help us and be with us.  Our task is one of faithfulness.

And when it is the Lord we are serving, and not ourselves; that is when we are able to draw on the Lord’s strength who gives us the patience and grace that brings joy to the ministry.

Paul’s prayer for us; is that we would grow in our KNOWLEDGE of God, in our OBEDIENCE before God and in our STRENGTH in the Lord.  Only then will we be true to our God in body, soul and spirit which is God’s

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