This passage is the last part of Paul’s letter to Colossians, where Paul gave final instructions to Christians living in Colossae. The core message to Christians in Colossae that it is the redemption that Jesus Christ accomplished is final and complete. Jesus not only paid for our sins; Jesus paid it all. There is no any guilt in life, nor fear in death. The redemption of Jesus Christ does not only consist of the forgiveness of our sins, if all that Jesus accomplished for us was the cancellation of the record of death, then we can just take it and go and live however we want. However, the redemption of Jesus Christ does not only end with forgiveness, but by forgiving our sins God gives us a new life with new knowledge and new desires. That is why the redemption of Jesus Christ can also be understood as an act of recreation. The old creation which is the world as we know it right now, has been corrupted by sins and evil of mankind – because of that the old creation will not stand forever. One day God will judge it, condemn it and destroy it. And God will replace the old creation with the new creation in which it will be perfect and incorruptible – and by the promise of God it shall stand forever. But the new creation does not only begin when the old creation comes to a complete end, instead there is an overlap between the two creations.
The first sign of the new creation is when Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and the second sign of the new creation is the creation of church. We are already a new creation. Paul still calls us to actively leave the old creation. Chapter 3 verse 5 of the Colossians says “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you”. And this is the context of a letter to Colossians, we are the new creation that is breaking into old creation. On a universal level, we are breaking into the world as the church, as a heavenly nation among earthly nation. But on a personal level, the new self is breaking into the old self as we pursue holiness and forsake sins. The war between the old and the new creation is the context of our passage today. The final instructions from Paul on how Christians should fight this spiritual war, which the instructions can be summarised into three topics: on prayer, on evangelism and on suffering. Our topic for today is prayer in which much focused on verse 2. There are many things we can learn about prayer from this short sentence.
Firstly, we are called to be watchful as we pray in this war between the old and the new creation. What does it mean to be watchful in prayer? Let us begin with ally, it is to be watchful of God’s answer to prayer. In prayer we ask according to God’s will. We know that whatever God wills, He will do. If we ask anything in contrary to His will such as for our own greed and selfish desire, God will not answer. Instead, we are called to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. When God answers our prayers, verse 2 calls us to give thanks to God. If our prayers are only focused for the present and the future, it will generally fill us with worries and anxieties.
When we give thanks, our prayers will become rooted in the past where we are reminded on how God has answered our prayers in the past, how we are shown ourselves to be trustworthy and faithful in the past. However, to pray according to God’s will is not as simple as it sounds because God’s will is partly revealed and partly hidden. However, things get complicated when we realised that things don’t always happen according to God’s revealed will. On one hand, God’s will said that human should come to Jesus Christ and be saved – on the other hand, God’s sovereignly decrees that some would remain condemned in their own sins. So, who is saved and who is condemned? That will of God is hidden. Why is one saved and one is condemned? That will of God is also hidden. Therefore, the hidden will of God is also called the sovereign will of God. Because there is a discontinuity between the revealed will of God and the hidden will of God, that we are called to be watchful in prayer.
As we are called to pray according to God’s will, we must understand that this will is referring specifically to God’s revealed will. And also, when we are called to pray according to God’s revealed will, we are called to be watchful of God’s answer. We are to be attempted to the unfolding of events under God’s sovereignty. To be watchful in prayer is to ask confidently and then to observe carefully. In reformed Christian, we always make one mistake in prayer, and Pasteur included – when we pray, we respect the God’s hidden will so much that we failed to honor God’s revealed will. We respect God’s sovereignty so much that it renders us unable to pray. Have we considered that prayer blesses us not only when answered favorably, but also when it was answered unfavorably? Have we considered that prayer is a place where we experience a holy disappointment that leads us to greater desire for the return of Christ? When you pray your will be done on earth as it is on heaven, are you ready to experience a lifetime of disappointment? And at the same time to experience a lifetime of comfort that God is forever enthroned above the raging waters?
Now that we know that the disappointment is meant to be, the next question is how shall we deal with it? Interestingly, God calls us to bring all our complaints and disappointments to Him. Here lies the second mistake that reformed Christians often make in prayers, again Pasteur included – when things don’t go according to our expectation, we often just bottled it up. There are two things that I found to be interesting in the bible that speaks to this situation very appropriately:
1. That the bible teaches us to pray very emotional prayers where disappointments and sorrows are displayed before God. And sometimes these prayers are prayed without any theological resolution as if a person is crying before God, which can be found on Psalm 138 and Psalm 142
2. When God’s people make complaints to God, God never gets angry or respond with rebukes, instead He comforts. He reassures us of His love for us. He reminds us that He always is in control of history, but He only has one condition for us – to complain to Him, to seek Him when in time of distress, seek Him when we need help, seek Him until our disappointment is overshadowed by His comfort
Your prayer has no power in itself, but your prayer is where God’s power is shown. To be watchful in a prayer is not always easy, but this is the role that God has assigned us to. Would you watch out for God and His people? Would you wait faithfully for God’s answer to our prayers? Would you stay alert against Satan’s attacks on the church? May we be the people who stand strong as we kneel down in prayer.