How to Pray for Someone’s Spiritual Growth
In June 2014 the prestigious spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated went to the Houston Astros, who were then coming off three consecutive seasons with at least 105 losses and had a 36-48 record that season.
The cover boldly predicted that the Astros would be World Series champions in 2017, and it was backed up by a story from Ben Reiter titled “Astro-Matic Baseball: Houston’s Grand Experiment,” which took readers through the Astros’ rebuilding process with an in-depth look at the team’s front office as it prepared for the draft and planned the team’s future. With the Astros’ Game 7 win Wednesday night, Reiter’s bold prediction came to fruition.1
Fans and collectors alike are forgetting about that issue now and instead are trying to get their hands on the 2014 magazine. And some of the prices are just as high as a ticket to this year’s World Series games.
On eBay, one person sold an issue for $560. Other sellers are offering the full magazine starting at $100, and bidders are offering more. Sports Illustrated was selling just the cover of the issue for $79.95 framed and $19.95 unframed, but both editions are currently out of stock. The Astros beat the Dodgers in four out of seven games in this year’s World Series to claim the franchise’s first World Series championship in its 55 years.2
Some people have been praying that the prediction from 2014 would soon come true. I know many people who were hoping and praying that the Astros would win. They watched the growth of that baseball team as the leadership invested in new players that would make significant investment and wins that would allow the team to make it to the World Series.
Many of us would easily pray for a baseball team to grow and become better to the point of winning a World Series. Would we take the same effort with others around us who we know need to mature and become better Christians? Would you just as much effort in building God’s team in this church as you would a team you watch on television?
Christians sometimes pray for spiritual growth for themselves. But there are times when it is important to pray for others, and especially that they will grow spiritually. Christians who are immature, don’t grow. If they don’t grow, they don’t live consistent Christians lives that produce good works and please God. Maybe you know a Christian who is immature, who needs to grow spiritually. How do you pray for them effectively?
I want to share with you four prayer requests that you can pray for someone else’s spiritual maturity.
FOUR PRAYER REQUESTS TO LIFT TO HELP SOMEONE STRENGTHEN THEIR FAITH3
1. Know God’s will (Colossians 1:9)
“For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,” (Colossians 1:9, CSB)
Knowing what God wants you to do takes spiritual wisdom and discernment. It helps when I take the time to pray that another Christian may learn and understand God’s will. Paul did it for the people of his church. He prayed for them that they would know God’s will.
My will for someone’s spiritual growth may be different than God’s will. There are things which I think that someone should do for them to grow. Sometimes, my will is matched up with God’s will. But many times, even with the best of intentions, my will for someone’s life does not match up to God’s will. That is why I have to pray that the other person gets the knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual understanding that they need.
2. Improve their spiritual relationship with Jesus (Colossians 1:10)
“so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God,” (Colossians 1:10, CSB)
Understanding God’s will only happen as I continue my relationship with Jesus. Many Christians treat their relationship to Jesus like a date that happens once a week on Sunday or even just on occasion. Yet God designed Christians to have a relationship with Jesus every day.
Many times one is distracted and that prevents one from growing in their relationship with Jesus. Whether it is a result of sin or distraction or some other difficulty, Christians sometimes let their relationship with Jesus drift. If a husband or wife did that in a marriage, it would soon end in a divorce. Because the marriage would have stalled and the person would feel like they are growing in their relationship with their spouse. Then the same would be true in a Christian’s relationship with Jesus.
So when I see someone who needs to grow, I need to pray that they may not just know God’s will, but that they improve their relationship with Jesus. The reason is because Jesus teaches you and me God’s will. He is the arbiter of truth.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.” (John 15:5, CSB)
Jesus is the way to produce fruit in life. If I want that to happen in someone’s life, then I need to pray for them that they improve their relationship with Jesus.
3. Receive spiritual strength (Colossians 1:11)
“being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, so that you may have great endurance and patience, joyfully” (Colossians 1:11, CSB)
The reason why someone may not be growing in their Christian walk is simply because they have run out of energy. They are weak. They have no spiritual strength. Some of that is because they are trying to live this life outside of the power of God. God’s “glorious might” gives us the power to live this life. Sometimes, we don’t have the strength.
Trials are part of Christian growth. This is why a Christian is called to have patience and endurance. So when you see a Christian going through a trial, you can pray for powerful strength to come from God while these Christians are going through a trial. Because a Christian will either learn to be bitter or better on the other end of their difficult experiences.
4. Thank God with a joyful heart (Colossians 1:11-12)
“being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, so that you may have great endurance and patience, joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.” (Colossians 1:11–12, CSB)Thankfulness is a signal of spiritual maturity. Someone who always asking for complaining how God is not helping is showing their immaturity. Significantly, many Christians who are thankful have been through trials and the trials have strengthened them. Thankfulness is an attitude that comes out of that difficult experience.
As I pray for someone’s spiritual growth, I should pray that they may have more gratitude, and less gripe-a-tude. How does that happen? God is a good Father and He has provided much in my life. As you and I get older, and as we grow, we realize that God has been gracious. He has given us not just eternal life.
Here, Paul reminds that a Christian can be thankful for the many works that God has done for them. These works of God one could pray for another Christian, so that they may realize that their growth is tied to God’s work in their lives. What more work that God has done in our lives?
FOUR REMINDERS TO BE THANKFUL TO GOD
“He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. In him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13–14, CSB)
Like a good Father, who loves His children, God has given Christians a good inheritance. As Christians, we need to be reminded of this inheritance. As fellow Christians, as we pray for other Christians, we need to pray for them that they are reminded of this inheritance. You can pray that a Christian remembers these four pictures of their inheritance.
Remember the man who predicted in 2014 that the Houston Astros would win the World Series in 2017. Now, that team and its fans are celebrating their recent victory. As Christians, when we pray for other Christians, we need to pray for a better future. We need to pray for the potentially better future. When we do, we need to celebrate with them when they see that future. We pray for their future that it gets better, even if in the short-term it is tough. We all go through valleys when we grow. But we all can look forward to a bright future ahead of us. For that, we can be thankful to God. Because God has done four things that guarantees our future.
1. He has delivered us – Rescue from darkness
The first picture is “deliverance” or “rescue.”
The phrase “the dominion of darkness,” which is used here, appears in Luke’s account of our Lord’s arrest in Gethsemane, where he says to the men who have come to apprehend him, “When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the dominion of darkness” (Luke 22:53). These words refer to the sinister forces marshalled against him for a decisive combat in the spiritual realm.4
When we look at this transfer, we must remember that Satan is not equal to God. This separation is similar to the separation that God did of light from dark in Genesis.
“God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:4, CSB)
Like a good Father, God separates the good from the evil. Light is separated out from darkness. As such, God gives us the domain of light.
“For you are all children of light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or the darkness.” (1 Thessalonians 5:5, CSB)
2. He has transferred us – Transfer to God’s kingdom
The second picture is a “transfer.” Jesus has transferred us from a place where we were enslaved into a place where we have freedom.
This word was used to describe the deportation of a population from one country into another. History records the fact that Antiochus the Great transported at least 2,000 Jews from Babylonia to Colossae.
Jesus Christ did not release us from bondage, only to have us wander aimlessly. He moved us into His own kingdom of light and made us victors over Satan’s kingdom of darkness. Earthly rulers transported the defeated people, but Jesus Christ transported the winners.5
3. He has redeemed us – Buyback of my life
The third picture is a “redemption.” Jesus has bought me back. Jesus satisfied God’s wrath. At the same time, He has released us from a payment of a ransom. When a terrorist asks for a ransom, it is because they are ready to threaten someone. He goes to a bank and threatens to kill everyone until the police pay him money. He will continue to threaten the police and the victims. When the police pays, then the terrorist will leave the people alone. But if you watch the movies, that is not true. Until the terrorist is caught, the terrorist will always threaten people around him. Like the movies, Jesus has defeated the terrorist. He has redeemed the victim’s life. He has paid the ransom that the terrorist asked for. It is just that the terrorist never received the money.
The problem today is that many people still think that Satan is terrorizing them. They still feel like they are in the bank and the terrorist is still demanding the ransom. Satan accuses. But he can never act on his threats. Jesus has already disarmed him. Jesus has already paid the debt and released us from Satan’s grip. When it comes to someone’s spiritual growth, we need to pray that the other Christian is reminded of this truth.
4. He has forgiven us – Forgiveness of sins
Sin cripples; God’s grace in Christ frees. Diane Komp, a pediatric oncologist, tells the story of Arthur, who developed cancer when he was three years old. He had multiple relapses over a five-year period and was often close to death. His parents were wonderful, she says, patient with his treatment, never losing hope.
One day Arthur’s mother called the doctor to ask something that had been weighing her down for years. She said that in the early years of her marriage, she had an affair and left her husband for another man. She became pregnant by him. When he learned of her pregnancy, he gave her something to swallow in hopes of inducing an abortion. It did not work, and he abandoned her. She returned to her husband, pregnant with Arthur. She asked for and received his forgiveness. He knew the truth but always loved and treated Arthur as his own son. Her question to the oncologist was this: “Do you think that the concoction I drank to abort the pregnancy caused the cancer?” Dr. Komp wisely responded that we will never know what caused the cancer. But doctors cannot heal guilt, and the mother suffered for many years with her terrible burden. Deep within her soul she must have felt that her sin caused all this suffering for her son.
Arthur’s mother later wrote the doctor that she had grown up in a church that preached forgiveness through Christ’s sacrifice. In spite of this religious tradition, she had never been able to forgive herself and had rejected the forgiveness that God had offered in Jesus. There was no one in her church with whom she could share her burden. When she finally forgave herself, she underlined every passage in her Bible that referred to God’s forgiveness and was amazed that the burden was finally lifted. The healing of memories and guilt can sometimes be more difficult than healing cancer.6
Arthur was one of the first in the country to receive a new experimental drug. It worked. His mother called the doctor to invite her to his wedding. One can imagine that it was going to be a big celebration.
1 Tyler Lauletta, “In 2014, a writer predicted the woeful Houston Astros would win the World Series in 2017 — Here is the story behind that prediction,” Business Insider, 2 November 2017, http://www.businessinsider.com/the-story-behind-the-si-cover-predicting-the-astros-world-series-run-2017-10
2 Eduardo Gonzales, “Fans shell out big bucks for 3-year-old Sports Illustrated cover predicting an Astros World Series win”, Los Angeles Times, 3 November 2017, http://www.latimes.com/sports/mlb/la-sp-sports-illustrated-astros-world-series-cover-20171103-story.html
3 Jim Erwin, “4 Requests to Ask When Praying for Someone’s Spiritual Growth”, Colossians 1:9-14, 28 March 2017, Internet, Patheos, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2017/03/28/praying-someones-spiritual-growth/, accessed on 3 November 2017.
4 F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 51.
5 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 115.
6 Diane M. Komp, “Hearts Untroubled,” TToday 45 (1988): 278. David E. Garland, Colossians and Philemon, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998), 79-80.