Prayer is simply talking with God. Seems like a simple concept, doesn’t it? But oh, how we complicate it!
All the usual questions come to mind – Where should I pray? Is there a specific position of prayer that really expresses my sincerity? How long do I pray? And most importantly, what should I pray?
The Bible provides some great examples of prayer from both Old and New Testament characters, like:
Personally, I don’t believe that God is so much concerned about the place, position, or length of prayer we pray. In those areas, do what comes naturally to you, because most likely, He is concerned about the matters within in our hearts. Would you agree?
Therefore, if we take the first three elements of prayer discussed above off the table, that leaves the content of our prayers. Today, I propose that we look at the prayers of Paul as an example of what to pray. (And, of course, I would suggest that we do it in light of the teachings of Jesus).
Though Paul would not have the opportunity to learn about prayer directly from Jesus like the other apostles, his prayers were completely God honoring. They show a level of spiritual maturity that was also reflected in the overall behavior of Paul. And the subject of his prayers provides real guidance for Christians attempting to further their walk with Jesus.
Ready? Let’s jump in!
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places. Eph. 1:16-20
In this prayer, Paul is praying for those new to the faith to be given wisdom. You can bet that before Paul ever started praying for God’s wisdom to be given to the Church that he was in constant prayer that God would give him wisdom. And he would be right, because as the saying goes, you can’t give what you don’t have. To help mold and shape the Church, Paul would need wisdom.
When God provided that wisdom, Paul was eager to share it with others. In our walk with Christ, we should first seek the foundational building block of wisdom. From there, our understanding of everything else will grow.
2. Praying for Spiritual Strength and Growth
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. Ephesians 3:16-18 NLT
Right after praying for spiritual wisdom, Paul prays for spiritual strength and growth. Knowledge of God’s ways is life changing in and of itself, but it takes inner strength to carry out God’s instructions daily. Paul knew firsthand what it meant to come face to face with the truths of God’s Word.
He also knew how the daily grind of life as well as the challenges of being of a believer could wear away at the soul. So, he prayed for strength, knowing this in turn would give room for spiritual growth on more than a superficial level. And in tandem, the believers’ spiritual growth would fortify their spiritual strength, allowing the cycle to repeat.
3. Praying for Knowledge Regarding God’s Will
So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. Colossians 1:9-10 NLT
In this prayer, Paul repeats some of the same themes he has used in other prayers (e.g., wisdom), but he also adds a new line. Paul asks that the Church be given complete knowledge of God’s will. So, what’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom? Knowledge is simply the information you have been given. Wisdom is the ability to take in information, make sense of it, and then apply that knowledge correctly when making decisions.
Initially, Paul would seek from God the ability to understand His will and then once fully prepared, ask God to reveal His will. I like to think of it this way. Had we not been prepared in 2nd grade to take on the information coming in 3rd grade, once we reached 3rd grade, we would not have been able to fully use what we were being taught. To know God’s will on a level that makes it useful to us, we must be ready to receive it.
4. Praying for Partners in Ministry
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil. 1:4-6 NIV
What I love about Paul was his insatiable appetite for all followers of Christ to be active proclaimers of the gospel. As one person who took as much territory for Christ as possible, Paul was keenly aware that if his efforts were doubled by others also taking ground for Christ, the gates of Hell would be completely crushed sooner than later. Likewise, we should be constantly in prayer for our fellow Christians and rejoice when they succeed.
What would happen if we prayed these types of prayers? What if we could stay others-focused? I am the first to admit, I struggle with those questions. However, I have also been a witness to what can be accomplished if we pray with conviction for wisdom, strength, growth, knowledge, and ministry partners. To that end, I will repeat Galatians 6:9 –
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (ESV)
I’ll be praying for you!
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.