When I use the word ordinary here, let me remind you that it in no way implies that the Christian life is boring. To borrow an image or two from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, it is a journey to the Celestial City, fraught with danger and temptation. No one yawns in a fight.
The first mark is prayer for Christ-likeness.
Prayer for Christ-likeness
Paul’s instruction to the church at Colosse is simple. Continue steadfastly in prayer. Consistent daily prayer ought to mark the life of the believer. What do we pray for? There are many things to pray for. The Lord’s prayer would be a good start. But perhaps here we should look back at Paul’s prayer for the Colossian believers in the first chapter. There he prays that they “may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God”. Paul’s prayer contains a single request – to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will.
I want to carefully point out that ‘will’ here does not refer to God’s will of decree, which is kept hidden from us, but to his will of desire, which is specially revealed to us through his Word. Searching for the will of direction so often talked about in ‘evangelical’ circles is simply unbiblical, and even crippling to the ordinary believer. For a clear explanation of this, I refer you to Kevin DeYoung’s book, Just Do Something.
Every ordinary believer ought to pray this, that the Father might fill them with the knowledge of his will. This will of desire is simply what God desires us to be like as he has revealed in the Bible. And God’s will of desire for us can be summed up as this: to be conformed to the likeness of Christ. So in effect the believer prays that they be conformed to the likeness of Christ. This involves knowledge – knowing what Christ is like and what he is pleased with, so that the clearer we see him, the more we become like him. The purpose of becoming like Christ is that we may be worthy to bear his name. The ordinary Christian prays that he might live up to the name he bears.
He realises that praying precedes all Christian living. If God does not act to fill them with the knowledge of Christ, then the Christian cannot become like Christ. Prayer signals our dependence on the grace of the Father to become like the Son. And in doing so, God gets the glory and we get the joy. He is seen to equip us for every good work we do, and we are transformed from one degree of glory to another, that we might increasingly have the capacity to more fully enjoy the pleasures of Christ. Paul knows this clearly, that there is progress in this life. We do become more and more like Christ. This is why he says that we are to be watchful in prayer with thanksgiving. So not only are we to pray that we might be more like Christ, but we are to give thanks for the grace God has given us thus far.
I cannot adequately sum up what it would mean to be Christ-like in such a short post – after all that is why God provided us with the Bible, to show us Himself in Christ! But I would like to raise a less obvious example of what it means to be Christ-like in practice. In addition to humility, kindness, compassion, holiness, and all the other attributes Paul lists out in Colossians and many other letters, our prayers are to be Christ-like as well. Christ prayed for God to be glorified through him above all other things. Believers have the opportunity to not only glorify Christ in the way they live, but to glorify Christ by preaching him and his cross to others, that they might believe and in turn glorify Christ with their own lives. Therefore, our prayers should also be centered on our informal ministry to others. Practically, this involves praying for the other marks – for wisdom in relating with non-believers, for wisdom in managing our time, and for grace and salt in our speech.
The bottom line is this: believers, even ordinary believers, are to engage in steadfast prayer for Christ-likeness in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. All can pray, for all who come to the cross are children in need of their Heavenly Father’s grace.