If you had to rate Paul’s longings for believers as expressed in his prayer life, which request would head the list? It is likely those prayers uttered and recorded during his imprisonment under house arrest (Acts 28) to which we would turn.
Certainly, being filled with all the fulness of God (Eph 3:19) would vie for first place. And then there is his request that the eyes of our understanding would be opened that we might appreciate all we have in Christ (Eph 1:18). In Philippians 1 he prayed that our lives might be “filled with the fruits of righteousness … unto the glory and praise of God,” a very lofty goal for our lives, to be sure.
I may well be accused of bias when I offer as my choice his desire as expressed in Colossians when he prayed that we might be filled “with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (1:9). That will is nothing less than that Christ might have the preeminence in every sphere – universal, personal, and eternal. An appreciation for the will of God inevitably leads to what we have in chapter 3:11 – “Christ is all and in all.”
Christ is everything. The epistle to the Colossians was written for this very reason. He is our wisdom, our wealth, and the object of our worship. We are beyond substitutes, supplements, shadows, and speculation. We need no emanations from deity, enlightenment from philosophy, or education from lawgivers. The horizon of the Christian life is flooded with the glory and wonder of the person of Christ; our eyes see nothing beyond Him.
This worship-inducing sight has very practical and down-to-earth implications. If He is all, then it is also God’s intention for Him to be “in all.” What follows this epistle-governing statement is a catalogue of relationships in which His Lordship is all-controlling. Paul begins with assembly life (3:12-17) and reminds us how the Word of the Lord (v16) and the name of the Lord (v17) should regulate the relationship among believers.
From the fellowship, he moves to the family, and reminds both husbands and wives that a Christian marriage contains a dimension absent from marriage among unbelievers. The pattern of Christ’s love controls a husband; the principle of Lordship controls a wife’s behavior.
Parents and children are included in this all-encompassing principle of Christ being “all and in all.” And, lest any should think that we can pigeonhole our secular employment, he moves to the factory and farm (3:22-4:1) to show how Lordship principles influence both employee and employer.
Perhaps it is not exegetically or spiritually fair to rank one of Paul’s requests above another. Each is in keeping with the theme of the particular epistle in which it is found. What must be acknowledged, however, is that Paul’s aspirations for our lives are far higher and wider in their scope than we normally rise to in our aspirations or prayer life. “Christ is all and in all” should be the norm, not the exception, for every Christian life.