These words from Paul have really made me stop and think about how I pray for others (myself, too, for that matter). Yes, I pray for others often. I pray for their health, for their safety, for peace and hope, guidance in difficult situations, etc. All of that is great and I think God wants us to pray for those things.
But, how often do I pray for their spiritual growth? How often do I pray that "God will fill you with the knowledge of his will in all spritual wisdom and understanding"? How often do I pray that my friends will "live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects"? Or, how about these -- "bear fruit in every good deed", "grow in the knowledge of God", "be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for the display of all patience and steadfastness"?
Then, to take it a step further as Paul did.... how often do I pray these things for fellow Christians of whom I have never met, but have only heard of as I sit in a prison cell? Granted, I'm not in a prison cell at this moment (and don't ever plan to be), but if Paul can look beyond his own needs as he is in prison surely I can pray a similar prayer for others from the comfort of my own home.
Prior to praying this same prayer for others, though, I think I must first be sure I pray it for myself. As I do, I think I need to be very aware and ask myself these questions (these came from my study guide, "Cappuccino with Colossians" from the Coffee Cup Bible Studies):
* Are my good deeds motivated by self-glory or God's glory?
* Am I growing in the knowledge of Him?
* Is God the source of my strength?
* Do I exhibit patience as a result of my relationship with the Lord?
* Do I have joy as I give thanks?
I'm not sure I can pray for others as Paul did until I am very sure of the answers to the above questions in my life. As I do and as I ask for the Lord's guidance in these areas, I also begin praying the same for others. That together, we would all live a life worthy and pleasing to the Lord.