Category Archives: Prayer

Mark 6:30-56 sheep without a shepherd

Discussion question:

Have you ever felt like the last person to understand what is going on?

Read Mark 6:30-56


Before hearing about John the Baptist in Herod’s house, Jesus had sent the 12 disciples two by two to preach that people should repent. There have been a few lake crossings in this gospel and back in Chapter 4, Jesus had stood up in the boat and told the storm to be quiet and it was! Word about Jesus has spread and people have been wondering ‘who is this man?’



  • 30-44 Feeding the five thousand
    • 30-34 Sheep without a shepherd
    • 35-38 How many loaves do you have?
    • 39-44 From Jesus to the disciples to the people
  • 45-56 Jesus brings…
    • 45-50 Jesus left the disciples on their own
    • 51-56 The sheep follow the Shepherd

30-44 Feeding the five thousand

30-34 Sheep without a shepherd

“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported…” This is the first time the disciples are referred to as the apostles. Mark writes this account after all is finished and the community who read this know them as the apostles. But also the word apostles means ‘sent ones’ and that is exactly what Jesus had done in Mark 6:7. This picks up after that mission was at an end. The account of John the Baptist created a sense of time passing in the story. The disciples must have been excited about what they did and witnessed. And they did it unaccompanied by Jesus. NB: They were so excited about all that they had done and taught and yet it seems that this whole section resolves with the fact that Jesus does everything – the disciples don’t seem to catch on to this yet. 

“…get some rest.” What a wonderful encouragement from our Lord. Just because there is more work to do doesn’t mean that we must sacrifice our rest.

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them…” Jesus does not see dollar signs or an opportunity for an ego boost, he sees people who need something. He felt for them.

“…they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them…” A crowd of lost sheep. They are shepherded through teaching.

35-38 How many loaves do you have?

“Send the people away so that they can go … and buy themselves something to eat.” Remember that Jesus had already said to the disciples that it is ok to go and get some rest. Now the disciples are showing compassion on the crowd and suggesting that they be let go to get some food for themselves.

“But [Jesus] answered, “You give them something to eat.” We’re getting closer and closer to the point of this story. Jesus is going to feed five thousand plus people miraculously, but he is going to involve the disciples in the work. Something that would be impossible for any person to do will be made possible through Christ.

“…more than half a year’s wages!” The disciples have not yet learned to trust Jesus. They have also outlined the magnitude of the problem for us.

“How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” Jesus is involving the disciples in this act of compassion. They have identified the problem and Jesus is helping them to solve it in ways that they could not have imagined. It must have felt like a fruitless exercise to them.

39-44 From Jesus to the disciples to the people

“…Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups…” A lovely extra bit of details about the green grass 🙂 Everyone is ready for a picnic without the sandwiches! But Jesus again helps the disciples to break down this problem and prepare the crowd to be served. It’s a bit like Israel being divided into clans and Moses leading the people by groups.

“…he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute…” Jesus is sent by the Father whom Jesus gives thanks to. The disciples receive from Jesus who is directing them. And they distribute it to the people. WARNING: bringing a Roman Catholic reading to this passage will see the Eucharist (communion) at work with the bread being provided by Jesus and distributed via the apostles. But there is no need to see this as the Lord’s supper. There is no deeper link here than providing food for the people. A better connection would be to look back to the wandering people in the wilderness who were fed manna from heaven under Moses. Also, there are fish provided too and a great deal of leftovers.

“They all ate and were satisfied…” Five thousand men plus extras were satisfied by this miracle.

“…and the disciples picked up twelve basketful of broken pieces of bread and fish.” Notice again how involved the disciples are here. Jesus is trying to teach them something. They have seen the concern (V35) and they have seen the resources (V38), they have seen the size of the problem (V40), they distributed what was given and gathered what was left over. They saw better than anybody that day what was possible. 

Summary: Jesus saw that the disciples needed rest. Jesus saw that the people needed a shepherd. Jesus directed the disciples to provide for the people with the resources that Jesus brings.

45-56 Jesus brings…

45-50 Jesus left the disciples on their own

“Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him…” The rest that they needed is still on Jesus’ mind. They won’t get the rest while Jesus is with them. Notice that Jesus ‘made them’ get into the boat. Remember back in Mark 4:36 that the disciples were taking Jesus places. On that episode they commanded the boat with boldness but were frightened by a storm which Jesus commanded. This time, Jesus sends them off and we’ll see again how little Jesus needs the disciples!

“… he went up on a mountainside to pray.” Jesus also needed time alone with his Father.

“Later that night…he was alone on the land.” The theme of being with or without Jesus continues in this passage. They were ‘out there’ on the lake and he was alone on the land.

“He saw the disciples straining…shortly before dawn he went…” A super hero would see people in trouble and fly to them but not our Lord. He sees our straining and struggle and waits for the right moment. In God’s wisdom it is good for us to have struggle.

“…he went out to them, walking on the lake.” You know, as you do! A simple bible reading would stop and conclude that this is the important part of the story. But a deeper reader will see that this is just one element of the story. The point is more than ‘look at what Jesus can do!’ The point lies in how he treats us and why he has even come to us.

“…they all saw him and were terrified.” The last thing they expected to see was their teacher walking by them on water. While they strained, he strolled. NB: do ghosts exist? While the answer is no, there is a spiritual realm with angels and demons and there is a story of King Saul bringing Samuel back from the dead and there is that time when Moses and Elijah stood with Jesus on a hill! There is also superstition and over imagined realities that we have no concrete answers to. Best to just say no.

50-56 The sheep follow the Shepherd

“Immediately he spoke to them…” The quickness of Jesus here is contrasted with his delay in Verse 48. 

‘“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them.’ Surely Jesus didn’t get into the boat for his own benefit but for theirs! The disciples need Jesus. Jesus understands their need. They are not alone and the man who can feed five thousand with a few loaves and the one who can walk on water has come from heaven to walk with them. To direct them.

“They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.” It’s at this point when I read this story that I thought I had understood the loaves but then Mark reintroduces the point here! The disciples had not yet caught on to what the crowds seem to be craving. The crowds are amazed at Jesus and will go out of their way to find him and spend ridiculous hours with him. The disciples are still thinking 2 dimensionally about mission. Jesus wants to send them but they must realise that they go with Jesus. They saw the crowd who needed to be fed but Jesus directed them on how that would get done. It is time for the disciples to start believing that Jesus can feed multitudes, cast out demons, raise the dead and walk on water. Have they even answered the question that they asked back in Chapter 4: Who is this man? We are told that their hearts were hardened and so they are yet unwilling to see who Jesus is.

“…people recognised Jesus. They ran throughout the whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.” This simple and excited faith is what Jesus wants from his disciples. If only they could see what the crowds were seeing!

Suggested questions for running this study.

Q1. What events were the disciples talking about in Verse 30? How did they describe the events?

Q2. How easy was it for Jesus to do things in these Verses? Look over the whole story and note all the amazing things that Jesus is said to have done and how simple it was for him.

Q3. What problems did the disciples face in all these Verses? How did the disciples think each problem should be solved?

Q4. How are the crowds described throughout these verses? What were their needs and how were they resolved?

Q5. What was Jesus waiting for the disciples to learn? Compare what Jesus was doing while the disciples were straining themselves on the lake.


The disciples had a special and close connection with Jesus and yet they had not yet become excited about who he is. We are all sheep without a shepherd. Without Jesus we struggle against the wind. With Jesus we are directed to teach one another to have faith in him. Jesus saw the crowd who was lost and he began to teach them. Jesus saw the disciples’ who were afraid and said “take courage because I am here.” Jesus has now left us to do this without his physical presence. But the same practice is followed. Rely on God and not our own strength. See the difficult task before us and take courage. The needs of the many are solved by knowledge of the One.


Challenge#1 Jesus is the solution to all of our problems.

In this passage we see Jesus solving problems in ways that the disciples did not foresee. The disciples even thought that their mission was done by them alone! Jesus, who can walk on water, provide food out of virtually nothing, and can heal simply by being present has much more to say and contribute to our problems than we can even imagine. The disciples still treated Jesus like a side-kick to all of their needs. Both the calming of the storm and the walking on water incident left them blown away (pun). But Jesus challenged them on both occasions about their fear. Why are you so afraid? Where is your faith? (Mark 4). And “Take courage. Don’t be afraid?” (Mark 6:50). Jesus is asking us to put him at the centre of the solution to all of our problems. Without him we are just straining at the oars against the wind. But with him, we can be directed and take courage.

Challenge#2 Finding rest in the middle of chaos.

Jesus shows teaches us the importance and value of praying in the quiet when he does it so often himself. He didn’t wait for a quiet moment, he created one.

Challenge#3 Think lost sheep, not problems to solve.

We are all like sheep that have gone astray. We all need the Great Shepherd. It’s not some more than others. The disciples needed to see this of themselves rather than being the muscles for Jesus. When we see this then we can spend more time directing people to Jesus than solving people’s problems. The more we try and fix people’s problems the more weary we will become. But keep directing people to Jesus and we will find this solution much easier. Even Jesus saw the sheep without a shepherd and his solution was to direct them to the word of God as he taught them.

Firm Foundations – Study 8 – Colossians 4:2-18

Pray for completing the mission

Topics Covered: What is taking Jesus so long to return?
How do I proclaim Christ?
Glossary: proclamation; wisdom; maturity; assurance; partnership; mission; evangelism.

Discussion Question

What would you do if you found a medicine that would cure all illness in the world?


The book of Colossians began with the description of the gospel coming to Colossae via Epaphras and that when they heard the gospel, they understood the true meaning of God’s grace. We heard from Paul how the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world. Now, at the conclusion of his letter, Paul will ask the church to pray for the gospel to keep moving around the world. The gospel is the powerful work of God, achieved through Christ, to move people from death to life. Only in the Lord are we able to put sin to death and to explore new life of faith. But it is the eternal hope that we have received in the gospel that produces faith and love in the church. And the mission of God is not to stop with us. Just as we received Jesus Christ as Lord, we are to continue to grow up in our faith and we are to do our part to ensure that the message of the gospel moves out to others.

Read Colossians 4:2-18

2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. 

7 Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. 9 He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here. 

10 My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) 11 Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 

16 After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea. 

17 Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.” 

18 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

What did you see?


  • Mission abroad and at home (2-6)
    • Speaking to God about people (2-4)
    • Speaking to people about God (5-6)
  • Missionaries coming home (7-9)
  • The many workers of the gospel (10-15)
  • Personal notes from the writer of scripture (16-18)

Mission at home and abroad (2-6)

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” It has been said that prayer is faith speaking. That means that prayer is not simply talking to God. It is speaking to God in response to what we know to be true about him. We ought to pray as good reflective listeners. 1) Be devoted to prayer because faith tells us that God has provided access to him and why would we dare treat that invitation with contempt? It is grace that saved us and nothing that we have done. We received Christ by faith as we prayed for forgiveness and to surrender to him – that is how we are to continue – in prayer to him. Note that Genesis 4:26 describes the first moment of prayer in the bible and the content and purpose and almost definition of prayer is that of those who call upon the name of the Lord. The attitude of our prayers include watchfulness and thankfulness. Watchful perhaps that we remain true to the faith and living in the Lord and not straying. Watchful that we pray for present matters and watchful as we see God’s hand at work. Thankful as we see the kingdom grow and His answers to our prayers. Thankful forever that God would save us and qualify us for the kingdom.

“And pray for us, too…” Paul has described his prayers for the church back in chapter one and invites them to pray for him.

“…that God may open a door for our message…” See how the content of our prayers ought to be gospel focussed? We should pray for the government and for those who are sick and for anything that we are anxious about, and we must pray for God’s mission.

“…so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ…” It’s not that Christ is a mystery but that Christ is the mystery revealed (Colossians 1:26, 27; 2:2). Paul knows what he needs to proclaim, that is not the mystery, but he needs doors opened so that he can speak.

“…for which I am in chains.” Paul was apparently in prison. He was arrested a number of times as we read in Acts.  He did not speak of his imprisonment as a disaster but as part and parcel to gospel work in his era and location. Coming to Christ does mean freedom from sin but it does not come with a rosy life. He has been imprisoned for speaking the gospel. But this does not deter him…

“Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.” Since we know the gospel let’s desire to be able to explain it to others clearly. Paul was dependent on God for the ability and the focus to do just that and not to muddy the gospel with side issues that do not matter and which actually detract from the gospel. Paul desires prayer from a church of Christ to support him in his mission abroad. Verses 2-4 were about speaking to God about people and Verses 5-6 are about speaking to people about God.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders…” Now Paul teaches the church how to be missionaries in their own town. The outsiders are those who do not yet belong to the church. Our approach to outsiders is to be wise which at the very first means being thoughtful and mindful of them – not disinterested!

“…make the most of every opportunity.” The context clearly means to be ready to proclaim Christ when a door opens for it!

“Let your conversation be always full of grace…” Let’s paraphrase: every time you open your mouth to speak with someone, make the content ooze with grace – be patient, kind, loving, truthful, listening, gentle and controlled. Allow others to speak. Allow others to close the conversation if they wish. Offer encouragement to all – no matter what their tone or nature is. We were instructed to put away evil uses of our mouth and here we are told to positively fill our mouths with gracious words. It may mean keeping your mouth closed if you have nothing kind to say!

“…seasoned with salt…” Your conversation is not to be dull and tasteless so that everyone wants to run away as soon as you start speaking. But season your words with attractive stuff. Put simply, be human around people and don’t be preachy or boring. The gospel is exciting news so be ever growing in your knowledge of the faith and ever mindful of those outside the faith that should and ought to hear and respond to the gospel just as you did.

“…so that you may know how to answer everyone.” If you can explain the gospel to someone without Christian jargon, then you know that you have understood it well yourself and are equipping yourself to share it with outsiders. Answering someone presumes that there was a question asked. Now, we need to walk the thin line between waiting to be asked and fishing for questions. This is why being always mindful of outsiders, always talking to God about mission, always looking for open doors and speaking graciously with a splash of salt will attract conversations.

Missionaries coming home (7-9)

“Tychicus…” Mentioned in Acts 20:4. As is clearly stated in Verses 7 and 8, he is being sent to Colossae from Paul’s side to fill them in on all the details of what is happening and for him to encourage them. Church work is relational. Heaven forbid that we ought to join a church and never speak to anyone or form deeper connections. God has called us to be part of his kingdom mission work and to do that together! If you are a Christian, then join the team of God’s mission – or ask yourself where your heart really is.

“Onesimus…” The book of Philemon is worth reading to hear how a criminal can find Christ and be treated as equal in the Lord. This is Onesimus. Once a runaway slave but now a companion with Paul and Tychicus. Like him, we were once living on the run from God, but now, because of hearing and truly understanding God’s grace, we are treated as equals with Christ in his kingdom. We are invited to always be ready to tell others the good news of Jesus Christ.

The many workers of the gospel (10-15)

“…Aristarchus…”Mentioned in Acts 19:29.

“…Mark…” Acts 12:12. A companion with Barnabas (Acts 4:36) and Paul on their early missionary journeys. The good news here is that Paul and Barnabas had a strong disagreement over the worthiness of Mark on their mission (Acts 15:36-41) but clearly, that has been repaired and Mark is on mission with Paul again.

“(You have received instructions about him…)” Not everything that Paul wrote became automatically scripture. See later in Verse 16 for a comment about scripture.

Personal notes from the writer of scripture (16-18)

“After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans…” We have here the clear intentions from Paul that his words be read out in church and not just in the church in Colossae but shared with another church. Paul has some understanding that he is writing words worth sharing with the Christian community. These words will make their way into the bibles as we know them. God did not write the bible by lowering tablets from the sky into some saint’s hands. The bible is written by men as the Holy Spirit carried them along in truth and understanding (2 Peter 1:12-21, esp. 20-21). The apostles were aware that they were contributing to the canon of scripture just as their ancestors the prophets had done. The church received the writings just as they received the gospel. Writings were collated and preserved by the church and the Holy Spirit. Paul was aware that he was writing as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.

“…and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.” The epistle to Laodicea is not listed in your bible’s contents page. Perhaps it was lost in history. If that is the case, then we know that the bible that we have is the bible that God meant for us to have. He is sovereign over all things. Some say, however, that this letter has come to us but is named Ephesians. I cannot say. Ephesians has an awfully similar shape and purpose to it. It was written by Paul.

“Tell Archippus…complete the ministry…” This is obscure and we cannot know what is going on here for sure. Archuppus is mentioned in Philemon 1:2. But consider this as the theme of Colossians – to complete the mission that God has begun in you. Don’t stifle it or put out the flame but pursue God and the work that he leads you to do, especially in continuing on in the LORD just as you received Him. Put to death the old self and clothe yourself with the new. Set your minds on things above where Christ is seated. The gospel has come to you, now grow up in it and share the good news with others.

“I Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.” Paul would have had a scribe write out the letter but his habit and custom was to write his final note in his own hand (see 1 Cor 16:21; Galatians 5:16) probably as a way of authenticating his words and preventing frauds. When you think of what to do after reading this letter, remember Paul’s chains. It may have even been difficult to sign his name given the chains and the handwriting would reveal the struggle! Paul’s signature is a memory hook for continuing in the faith, pressing on, and proclaiming Christ as LORD whether that is welcome news or not!

“Grace be with you.” The letter ends as it began in Chapter 1 Verse 2. Grace be with you. The gift of God that we do not deserve and can never repay. Truly understanding the grace of God is what life is all about. Life comes from Him and so does Salvation. To put our hope in anything else is futile and foolish. May our faith and love for one another grow out of the eternal hope that is in our hearts.

What did we learn?

Just as the gospel has found a home with the Colossians, Paul urges them to get on board with spreading the gospel. He does this by asking for prayers for those who take the gospel abroad and by urging them to speak to their own community about Jesus. Gospel work is teamwork. We are not Loan Rangers and even Paul expresses his thankfulness for his partners who give him great comfort. Paul invites us to complete the mission which Jesus has drawn us into.

Now what?

Topic A: Know your church’s mission. As we are not to do mission alone, the greatest asset we have is partnering with the church that we belong to. How does your church plan to complete the mission? Most churches have a mission statement of some sort but they all need to meet with the Great Commission that Jesus gave to his disciples: to take the gospel to the nations, teaching everyone all that Christ taught us and adopting people into the community who know God as Father Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20). What questions can you ask your church about the plan for growing the kingdom? Do you know the names of the missionaries that your church supports? Do you know how to pray for them?

Topic B: Speaking with grace and salt. This advice is healthy for all humans to follow but even more so if we are hoping and praying to talk to people about Jesus. Being slow to speak and quick to listen is really great advice for anybody. As gospel-sharers, we want to avoid two extremes: bible bashing people and saying nothing about Jesus ever. But if we can listen and speak with love and interest and if we are growing in wisdom and understanding as the Spirit give us (Colossians 1:9) then speaking about the gospel can enter our conversations naturally and interestingly. And when we don’t get it right, that is an excellent time to reflect on what went wrong and grow from the experience!

Topic C: Praying with watchfulness and thankfulness. With watchfulness perhaps means knowing names and events that you would like to bring to God in prayer. Is there a sermon coming up that you could pray for the speaker about? Is there a missionary who has sent a recent update that you can pray about? Thankfulness means remembering the good things that God is doing and has already done through Christ and by His Spirit. Having a list of people to pray for has been very helpful for many Christians. The PrayerMate App has been a helpful modern tool to help our watchfulness and thankfulness in prayer.

Topic D: What is taking Jesus so long to return? Christ’s work during His first coming began a new age of the church – some say the age of the Spirit. It is an era which began at his Resurrection and will continue until He returns again to bring this world to an end. It is good and great to look forward to the new age – when Christ comes and we will see Him face to face and everything that we are hoping for in Christ will be fulfilled. But the age we live in is not a waste of time. We are to use every moment and venture we are involved in to grow the kingdom. Raising a family is to be done like you are raising disciples of Jesus. Doing business at work is to be done as though working for the Lord. Involvement at church is to be like you are involved in completing the mission. We can never know when Christ is to return, but our time right now is not simply about waiting – we are to be completing the mission.

Firm Foundations – Study 2 – Colossians 1:9-14

Praying like a Christian

Topics include: How do we pray and enjoy it?
Glossary: kingdom of God; endurance, redemption, 

Discussion Question

What things do you like to pray about?


The Apostle Paul is writing to a church that he has never met in person but has heard much about from his partner in mission, Epaphras. The reports are that this church has heard the true gospel of God and have truly understood what God’s grace is all about. The evidence is in the faith that they display for Jesus and their love for one another. The true gospel comes to us from God the Father. It is about salvation through Jesus Christ alone and not based on any of our own merits. And it is spreading across the globe by the words of faithful servants like Epaphras and Paul and by the Spirit of God.

Paul always thanks God for what he hears about the church in Colossae because of the reports that he is hearing about them.

Read Colossians 1:9-14

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,t 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

What did you see?


  • Paul’s prayer for knowledge of God’s will (9)
  • In order to live worthy of the Lord (10-12)
    • Good work (10)
    • Growing in knowledge of God (10)
    • Strength from God to endure (11)
    • With a life of thankfulness to God (12)
  • Because that is God’s plan (13-14)

Paul’s prayer for knowledge of God’s will (9)

“For this reason…” Phrases like this mean we need to recap what was the reason already laid out? Epaphras has told Paul and Timothy about the faith and love of the Colossians springing out of the hope that they have because of the gospel that they heard! Because of this report…

“…we have not stopped praying for you.” The subject of this section is the content of Paul’s prayer. We mustn’t imagine that Paul spends his whole day 24/7 praying and not doing anything else. His ministry is about preaching and teaching but he is a prayer. He says elsewhere to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This verse is worth looking up and including in the study somewhere. It is God’s will that we speak with him with joy and contentment in all situations.

“We continually ask God…” This is a reminder that one prayer to God once only is not a sign that you really need what you are asking for. Jesus spoke about approaching God the Father in prayer and being persistent. He also gave the profound formula of prayer in the Lord’s Prayer which can be prayed over and over because we know what God desires in our prayers. You see, prayer is faith speaking. We know who God is through his word, we know what he is like and what he has promised to us. We now, by faith, ask God to fulfill exactly what he has promised. Not because he is likely to forget, but because our prayers are a reflection of our understanding and relationship with God. Shallow prayers about selfish things are indications of immaturity. But mature prayers are about fulfilling God’s purposes in your life and in the life of others. This is why the Lord’s prayer is so profoundly helpful! It is about God’s will being done and his kingdom coming. This kingdom is about forgiveness, the provision of what we truly need while continuing to trust God for the future and it is about running away from darkness and into the light of God’s grace. So, Paul does not just pray once and forget. He is invested in the church in Colossae and his prayer for them is repeated because he is keen for them to grow up in the kingdom of God’s grace.

“…to fill you with the knowledge of his will…” Let this request be clear to us! Christianity is not about choose-your-own-adventure and let love guide your way. It is about knowing the will of God! In Ephesians 1, Paul explains that God’s will was a mystery for ages but now that Christ has appeared, it has been made known. His will is to bring everything under Christ’s rule. Paul’s prayer is that the Colossians would get the full grasp of that will. This is life changing to anybody to grasp what God’s plans are for this world and everyone in it and then to shift their thinking to fall in line with him! This is foundational to the Christian faith.

“…through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives…” The bible teaches us that the Spirit works through transforming minds in accordance with the word of God. Jesus spoke in John 16:12-15 about the Spirit being sent in order to speak only what the Father and the Son gives Him to speak. Although God is one, he is three persons in one. All three are equally God. Yet there is a relationship within the Godhead which is other-person-centred. The Spirit is not fighting for headship nor is the Son. The Father freely gives everything to the Son and the Spirit gladly works in this world to tell of the good news of Jesus and the love of the Father. It can be difficult to wrap our heads around an apparent hierarchy without imagining the Spirit as less than God. But this is a truth that we must grapple with and give all glory to God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that the bible is God-breathed which literally means ‘God-Spirited’. It is the Holy Spirit that has worked in the mind and hearts of people to bring us God’s word the bible (2 Peter 1:21). The Spirit of God fills our minds with the knowledge of God’s will through the message of the bible. If we wish to know the will of God, pray for the Spirit to help you to understand the word of God, the bible, as you try to read and understand it. The COMA method is very helpful in learning how to listen well to the Spirit of God through the word of God.

In order to live worthy of the Lord (10-12)

“So that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way…” Context changes everything and is vital to a good understanding of the scriptures. It is important to live worthy of the Lord and to please him but it is impossible for us to do this without a) hearing the gospel and truly understanding God’s grace; and b) living in response to the grace of God by knowing the will of God by truly listening to him through his word. The point is that we are saved in the first place so that we can actually pursue a life of pleasing him. We do not work at living a good life in order to get his approval to begin with! The words ‘so that’ flow from the prayer that we be filled with the knowledge of God. You can’t please someone without knowing what pleases them. What pleases God is a life of faith and love flowing out from his grace. We were made to glorify God which looks like a life of pleasing the Lord – yet we cannot do that without the salvation of the cross nor the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. But with the Spirit and the Word, we can now pursue life with Christ. Paul lists what he has in mind when he says this…

Good work (10)

“…bearing fruit in every good work…” The gospel carries a cause and effect message with it. When a person hears and responds to the gospel, it is expected that the outworking of this is a life of faith and love. This is the good fruit that flows from a born again Christian. If the fruit is not there, this is evidence of a person who is not born again. Matthew 7:17-19 describes Jesus using the fruit of a tree to illustrate whether someone is worthy of the kingdom or not. Galatians 5:22-23 describes the fruit of the Spirit in terms of the virtues of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Conversely, Galatians 5:19-21 describe the fruit of someone who is not part of the kingdom: sexual immorality, impurity, hatred, jealousy, fits of rage and so on. The gospel brings personal change to people. At this point, a genuine Christian can lose heart because of their failings in some of these areas but a fruit tree doesn’t immediately sprout great juicy fresh fruit! It takes time and nurture and good feeding. The same is with the Christian but the direction and purpose remains the same – we live for the kingdom now and not for ourselves. Good work refers to everything that is done in love for others and not self. “Good works” are the first in the list of ways we live pleasing lives for God.

Growing in knowledge of God (10)

“…growing in the knowledge of God…” There is an intrinsic link between what we learn and how we act. The fruit of the gospel is righteous living and we grow in our obedience with the growing of our knowledge of God. To be ‘godly’ or to live a life of ‘godliness’ (words common to this world, not quoting from Colossians) is to grow in our knowledge and love of God. We are godly when we are Godward! Fill our minds with the knowledge of Him and we learn about his grace and mercy and patience and kindness and contentment and faithfulness and truth and so on. Paul’s prayer is to keep growing in the knowledge of God. See Colossians 2:6. “Growing in knowledge of God” is the second way we please God.

Strength from God to endure (11)

“…being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might…” Living in the strength that God provides is one element of faith. That is, we trust him to grow us and equip us for the works of service. But what is the strength for? 

“…so that you may have great endurance and patience…” Endurance and patience are a key lesson in the New Testament as we continue to live in this world, waiting for Jesus to return! Jesus spoke of being dressed and ready for when he returns even though we do not know the day or the hour that he will return (Luke 12:35-40). He says that whoever gets tired of waiting and is not ready when he returns will be treated as an unbeliever (Luke 12:42-46). This is about faithfulness. The nature of our lives while we wait for heaven is to persevere with endurance and patience. The strength to endure comes also from the growing knowledge of God! Enduring through the power of God is the third way we live pleasing lives.

With a life of thankfulness to God (12)

“…and giving joyful thanks to the Father…” The audience of Paul’s prayers is God the Father and he is our Father too. He is the source of our salvation since it is his great love that sent Jesus into the world to save us. He is our creator and our lives exist to give him thanks and praise (Romans 1:20-21). The gospel doesn’t come to us so that we can praise ourselves or one another but that we can live in joy of knowing God and growing in our knowledge of him. This is what we were made for! The trouble is that all of humanity are hopeless at doing this by nature. So how can we ever come to God with joy in our hearts unless we knew for certain that he was happy to receive us?

“…who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” Wow! God’s kingdom is a kingdom of light – with no darkness allowed – filled with his holy people, the righteous, sinless ones – and we who have heard the gospel and truly understood the grace of God have been qualified to share in this – it is our inheritance! When God sees you and me, in Christ he views us with the purity of Christ. The fourth desire of God for our lives is that we rejoice in the assurance of salvation!

Because that is God’s plan (13-14)

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves…” Paul is underlining his last statement that HE has qualified US and we have not qualified ourselves. This is the gospel of grace. We were living in darkness but he rescued us. He saved us. He pulled us out of the pit and placed us in the kingdom of the Son whom he loves. We must be clear by now that Christianity is not about earning God’s praise but that he saved us so that we can, in truth, praise God! We praise him with our lips but also and more significantly with our actions. This is God’s plan for us.

“…in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” What an amazing couple of verses of the gospel! Rescued, brought, redeemed, forgiven. Out of darkness and into light. And all of this has been done in Christ! Our next study will follow Paul’s theme of the Son of God, who he is and what he has done. We finish this lesson on the foundation of our lives which is to get on board with God’s plan for us to be part of his kingdom! He has qualified us and we ought to live lives that praise him because he loves us so much. The key to all of this is our knowledge of the gospel which transforms and grows our knowledge of God and his will.

What did we learn?

Christianity is completely for us, for our benefit, and it is at the heart of the will of God but it is not about us! It is about God and his great will and purpose to give us the qualifications of entry into the kingdom of God. Paul’s prayer is for the knowledge of God’s will to grow clearer and clearer so that we live just as God intended for us to live. Without this, we remain in darkness. But with wisdom and understanding, we can enjoy and embrace a life that pleases God. This comes to us by the power of the Spirit through the reading of his word.

Now what?

Topic A: A praying life. Notice the content of Paul’s prayer for the people of God in Colossae. Prayer is our privilege as children of God to bring to God any of our concerns (Philippians 4:7) but our concerns must be transformed to be the same as God’s for us and for the world. Look at the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 and compare what Jesus outlined with the prayer of Paul in Colossians 1:9-14. As we grow in our knowledge of God, we learn to pray continually for God’s will to be done. This is not merely a respect for God’s will to trump your desires but it is a plea for your desires to be the same as God’s.

Topic B: How do we pray? Just like any relationship, talking to God in prayer involves knowing who you are talking to. It also involved just talking. Calling him Father is a great start. Talking out loud is said by some to be helpful. Also, writing down your prayer can be a good way of staying focused and not drifting your mind onto other things. It’s as easy as speaking to someone who you trust with your life and every secret thing. It is also tricky because God doesn’t speak back or provide head-nods as you speak. But start praying and do so while growing in your knowledge of God. It is always helpful to take a passage of the bible, read it, and then turn that lesson or story into a prayer. You’ll be surprised how helpful that can be.

Topic C: Praying for one another. Paul shared in writing what he was praying for and this is a very useful thing to do when you intend to pray for others (see Luke 22:32). Rather than suggest that you’ll pray for a sick person to get better, be clear about what you are praying for. Also, praying out loud with one another is a practice that Christians have done right from the beginning (Acts 1:24; 4:31; 12:12; 16:25; 20:36; 21:5). Learning to pray in Growth Groups is not only a growing opportunity for the prayer but whole groups that are comfortable with open prayer are a very encouraging thing to be a part of. Start by saying a short prayer of thanks to God for one thing that you learned in the study and take things slow. You’ll be comfortable with open prayer in no time.