We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.
Paul definitely had a lot to pray for when it came to the believers in Colossae. Epaphras, a fellow missionary and probably the one who founded the church there, had run into some problems. False teachers were beginning to lead some of the believers astray. They spoke of angels and cosmic powers, and they held that people could contact these beings if they practiced scrupulous self-discipline. Clearly, Paul needed to set the people straight. But how to begin his letter?
Notice what Paul doesn’t do: he doesn’t begin by drawing attention to the problems or misunderstandings. He doesn’t get embroiled in theological debate. Following his normal letter-writing custom, he begins by giving thanks for the Colossians. He thanks God for their authentic faith, which he has heard of. He thanks God for their genuine love of all “the holy ones” (Colossians 1:4). And he thanks God for the depth of their hope and trust in the Lord.
By pointing out all that was going well for them, Paul was paving the way for the correction he would have to give them later. By focusing first on thanksgiving, Paul kept God’s blessings in the forefront of his mind—and theirs as well.
Like moistening or waxing the end of a thread to help it fit through the eye of a needle, thanksgiving can help us sharpen and focus our intercessory prayer. When we start praying for a situation by giving thanks for all the good that God is already doing there, our hope is built up. So is our trust in God’s plan as well as our confidence that he will intervene according to his own wisdom and timing.
The next time you face something that troubles your heart or a situation you want to pray for, remember St. Paul, and begin by giving thanks. Ask God to bring to light the good things that he is already doing, even the unexpected ways he is at work. Let him build your hope in him. Let him show you he is trustworthy.
“Lord, you know the situations that weigh heavily on me. Open my eyes to the ways you are already at work, and help me be thankful.”
Word Among Us