“We pray to God that you will not do what is wrong by refusing our correction. I hope we won’t need to demonstrate our authority when we arrive. Do the right thing before we come—even if that makes it look like we have failed to demonstrate our authority. For we cannot oppose the truth, but must always stand for the truth. We are glad to seem weak if it helps show that you are actually strong. We pray that you will become mature.” – 2 Corinthians 13:7–9.
If I asked you to list the attributes of Paul, would prayer be one of them? Probably not. When we reflect on this remarkable man we would probably list things such as: an apostle, church builder, missionary, pastor, preacher, and teacher. We would point out his character strengths of persistence, patience, his courage, his humbleness, and his uncompromising and unyielding commitment to the gospel and cause of Jesus Christ. But how about being representative of a great man of prayer — would you put Paul on that list? Would Paul be top of the mind when it comes to prayer?
It is more likely we would gravitate to people like Moses interceding on Mount Sinai for the children of Israel. Or we may think of David with his psalms or Elijah who stood alone before an altar drenched with water at Mount Carmel. How about Daniel who opened his window toward Jerusalem and prayed every day even though he lived in a hostile land. The Lord Jesus was the Man of prayer, so much so that one of His disciples asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray,” (Luke 11:1). But what about Paul? With all of his other qualities, we seldom think of Paul as a man of prayer, yet this is the field in which he excelled.
While preparing for the Prayer Matters series, I spent some time with some of the letters and prayers for those to whom Paul wrote. It was convicting and uplifting at the same time. I think every person who is a follower of Jesus would benefit if they spent the time to study and reflect on the prayers of Paul.
Most of us limit our prayer requests and praises to those things associated with day-to-day life for ourselves and others we know. That is not a bad thing and the importance of offering such requests and praises should never be minimized. But the prayers that we find in the writing of Paul demonstrate an understanding and depth of faith that we all should aspire to possess. He prayed for specific areas in which he desired the people reading his letters to grow and draw closer to God.
We should all desire the kind of life to which Paul referred in these prayers for both ourselves and others. We should seek to follow Paul’s example as we grow in our own faith and prayer. I still have a great deal to learn, but I have realized the exceptional value of enhancing my own prayers with Paul’s teaching and example.
- What is one way that you are encouraged or challenged by Paul’s prayer examples we discussed in this series?
- Consider your current prayer habits. Do you have a plan for regular, intentional prayer?
- Whom do you regularly ask to pray for you? What sort of prayer requests do you share?
- Do you have a current plan to regularly and intentionally pray? Do you have a particular system for praying for the specific needs of other people that you have found to be helpful?
- What is one way you are hoping to grow in prayer as a result of this study?