As we come to look at this passage on Sunday, here are some words from Don Carson (Spiritual Reformation, pages 109-110) on verses 12-14 that challenge our prayers:
“If God had perceived that our greatest need was economic, he would have sent an economist. If he had perceived that our greatest need was entertainment, he would have sent us a comedian or an artist. If God had perceived that our greatest need was political stability, he would have sent us a politician. If he had perceived that our greatest need was health, he would have sent us a doctor. But he perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from him, our profound rebellion, our death; and he sent us a Saviour.
What Paul is saying is that to live a life worthy of Jesus Christ is to overflow with joyful thanksgiving in the light of the salvation we have received at his hand. If we have been transferred out of the dominion of darkness and into the kingdom of the Son beloved by God, our only appropriate response is joyful gratitude.
Indeed, as Paul thinks along such lines, his mind is so compellingly drawn to Jesus that he breaks out in a paean to Christ (1:15-20). Of course, it is important for Paul to remind his Colossian readers that Christ is the Lord of the universe, since he was God’s agent in creation, and to tell them that Jesus is not only creation’s agent but its goal: “all things were created by him and for him” (1:16). Because of the syncretism all around them, the Colossians needed to be reminded that Christ alone is the head of the church. Yet Paul reminds them in such a way that he displays the joyful exuberance that he has just been describing. It is the inevitable heritage of those who dwell on the countless blessings they have received from God through the merits of Christ Jesus.
The line of thought in this prayer of the apostle is straightforward. He prays constantly that these Christians will be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. Then he tells them the purpose of his prayer: he wants them to live a life worthy of the Lord, utterly pleasing to him, and Paul assumes that such a life is utterly impossible unless there is a growing and spiritual grasp of what God’s will is. Finally, unwilling to leave undefined such expressions as “worthy of the Lord” and “please him in every way,” he fleshes them out with some concrete characteristics of Christians who live this way. His list is not meant to be exhaustive, merely typical, but it is no less revolutionary for that. Christians, he says, bear fruit in every good work. They grow in the knowledge of God, they are strengthened by God’s power so as to display great endurance and patience, and they joyfully give thanks to the Father for the astonishing salvation he has granted them through the Son he loves, Jesus Christ. That sublime thought elicits a burst of praise for Jesus himself.
When was the last time you prayed like that? Does not the example of the apostle suggest we should be constantly praying along these lines?”