When I was 19, my friend Andy and I couldn’t resist climbing a hill. We were in California on tour with our Christian music group. The family who put us up for a day lived next to a hill that beckoned us to explore it. After climbing to the top, we we were awed by a beautiful vista as the sun lowered toward the horizon. On our way back down the hill, we noticed some cattle nearby. One of them looked sinister and was moving in our direction. We then realized that there was no fence between us and the beast! We decided to run down and get out of its reach in case we were in real danger. That reminds me of this anecdote:
Two men were walking through a field one day when they spotted an enraged bull. Instantly they darted toward the nearest fence. The storming bull followed in hot pursuit, and it was soon apparent they wouldn’t make it.
Terrified, the one shouted to the other, “Put up a prayer, John. We’re in for it!”
John answered, “I can’t. I’ve never made a public prayer in my life.”
“But you must!” implored his companion. “The bull is catching up to us.”
“All right,” panted John, “I’ll say the only prayer I know, the one my father used to repeat at the table: ‘Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.'” 🙂
Whether we’re in an emergency or at meal time, prayer should be more than ritual!
We usually give thanks for good things that happen to us and our friends. That’s expected. But the most important blessings in life are not as easily noticed because they are spiritual in nature. Our discipleship jouney is described as “walking by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7), so we need to be sensitized to spiritual blessings. These blessings are more important than circumstantial happiness, because they extend beyond this short life on earth. This insight puts hardships into perspective: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17,18).
Paul’s prayer for the church at Colosse gives us a helpful example of giving thanks by faith. How can you do this?
1. Give thanks for your anticipation
Blessings in the future
Hope is one of the vital virtues (including faith and love). Although there are benefits we anticipate in our future here, the gospel’s hope primarily focuses on the hereafter.
“Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Col. 1:12). When you receive Jesus as Savior by faith you become a child of God (John 1:12; Gal 3:26). The Holy Spirit enters your heart with an “Abba, Father” intimacy. The ultimate salvation of entering heaven is described in terms of an inheritance. This anticipates “when the saints go marchin’ in.” We can’t imagine the glorious scene, “in the light” of God’s magnificent, revealed presence. The apocalypse of Revelation chapters 4-5 give us a visionary glimpse of heaven’s grandeur. This inheritance is even more important when contrasted to the horrors of hell (Rev. 20:14,15). Express thanks for your glorious anticipation.
2. Give thanks for your redemption.
This is the theme of the whole Bible: redemption needed, accomplished, offered, and received.
Blessings in the past
Due to the Fall in Genesis 3, the dawn of human history became the dusk of Satanic sabotage. Apart from God’s saving grace everyone “in Adam” is born lost and in need of redemption. The apostle refers to this dismal state: “And you … were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air [Satan], the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children [objects] of [God’s] wrath, just as the others” (Eph. 2:1-3).
This bad news proves the desperate need of the Good News. Jesus promised: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).
“He has delivered us from the power of darkness” (Col. 1:13a). Being born again by faith involves you dying out of Satan’s kingdom of darkness and being transferred “into the kingdom of the Son of His love”(Col. 1:13b). What grace! What a drastic and wonderful change! Our citizenship is now in God’s eternal, righteous Kingdom (Phil. 3:20). Give thanks for so great a salvation.
Blessings in the present
This deliverance provides us with two realities today: redemption and forgiveness.
“In whom [in Jesus] we have [present tense] redemption through His blood”(Col. 1:14a). Redeemed ones have been set free through the price that was paid at Calvary. As God’s purchased people we belong to Him and He belongs to us. You may think that you need more “self esteem.” What’s much better is having “Christ-in-you esteem.” You have value as one whom God purchased with the infinite value of His Son’s substitutionary sacrifice (1 Pet. 1:18,19; Isaiah 53:5,6). This healthy self worth causes gratitude instead of pride.
What about all our sins of commission (what we’ve done wrong) and omission (the right things we’ve failed to do)? When Jesus declared on the Cross “It is finished,” all of our sins were paid in full–past, present and future (John 19:30). “[We have] the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:14b).
In the next chapter of this letter, Paul elaborates on the totality of our pardon: “[believers were] buried with Him [Jesus] in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col 2:12,13).
And here’s a reaffirmation of our deliverance from the devil’s authority: “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it [the Cross]” (Col. 2:14). Are you living up to your potential as a liberated child of God?
Oh, the freedom of total pardon. What amazing grace! This forgiveness is an excellent incentive for heart-felt gratitude to God.
So, by faith, your prayer life can be greatly enriched as you give thanks for the spiritual blessings you have in Christ–past, present, and future. Steven Curtis Chapman sings this well:
I hear you say your heart is aching
You’ve got trouble in the making
And you ask if I’ll be praying for you please
And in keeping with conviction
I’ll say yes with good intentions
To pray later making mention of your needs
But since we have this moment here at heaven’s door
We should start knocking now, what are we waiting for?
Let us pray, let us pray, everywhere in every way
Every moment of the day, it is the right time
For the Father above, He is listening with love
And He wants to answer us, so let us pray…
 The full song “Let us Pray” lyrics are here: http://www.christianlyricsonline.com/artists/steven-curtis-chapman/let-us-pray.html Here is an online video of this song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-q8WvfgURU
This is part 2 of a study on the prayer in Colossians 1:9-14. Part 1 is Interceding by Faith
Copyright 2013 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint for non-commercial use when credit is given to the author and GraceNotebook.com. Biblical quotations are from the New King James Version (copyright by Thomas Nelson).