I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. Colossians 2:1 NIV
I want you to know how much I have agonized for you… (NLT)
For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you… (ESV)
I want you to realize that I continue to work as hard as I know how for you… The Message
As you read the different translations above, do you get the same sense that I do, that Paul’s concerns and prayers for others – those he knows and doesn’t know – go much deeper than our concerns and prayers normally go? Do you contend for, agonize for, have a great struggle for, or work as hard as you can in prayer for those you know, not to mention those you don’t? That is several levels deeper in prayer than I normally go.
In reading this passage a while back – here’s what I wrote in my journal: “I don’t struggle for others, agonizing over my desire that ‘that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ’ (verse 2). I’m too self-centered and lazy. Oh God, I ask for Your forgiveness. I ask for Your passion for Lucy, for my family, for my church family, for my neighbors, and for the lost. Help me to ‘struggle’”. For emphasis in this article I have underlined what Paul was struggling about for these others he was praying for. How often do these phrases or their equal creep into your intercession?
Encouraged in heart – Every person needs encouragement. It is one of my deep needs. It is one of your deep needs. In fact, the Bible says, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on…let us encourage one another…” (Hebrews 10:24-25) Those verses were written in the context of gathering together to do that. We also should be contending in our prayers for the Holy Spirit to use every means possible to encourage those we are praying for.
United in love – How often do we agonize in prayer for unity? The Lord Jesus Christ did. The night before He died on a cross, He agonized in prayer about “unity” (John 17). Read over these words of Jesus for you, “May they (includes you and me) be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them, even as You have loved Me”. Can we not pray the same for others?
Have the full riches of complete understanding – Paul struggles in prayer that the Colossians also experience all the wealth that comes from a proper understanding of their position in Christ. Without that assurance, believers cannot enjoy all the blessings that are theirs in the Lord. As I look around in our church family, I see brothers and sisters struggling “under” their circumstances when God has given each Christian resources to “rise above” their situations. Do I struggle in prayer for them that they will come to know the full riches of understanding their Christian standing – come to know what it means to rest in Christ? Not like I should. How about you?
May know the mystery of God, namely, Christ – Do we work as hard as we know how to see that others truly know Christ at deeper and deeper levels? Paul’s desire for his own life was, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3:10a). And that was his prayer for the Colossians too. Do we work as hard as we can to know Christ for ourselves? Do we give the same effort in praying for others to come to know the fullness of Christ?
So, would you forgive me for not praying as sincerely and as deeply as I should for you? Please pray that God would grow some contending, agonizing, struggling, and pure work into my intercessions each day. I’ll be praying that for you.