I have been taking some time the past month or so to study the prayers of the Apostle Paul which he records for us in his letters and I have to confess that I have been so greatly convicted in regards to the content of my own prayers. There are many things in my prayers that I do not find in his and several things in his prayers which are absent in mine. Perhaps you notice the same thing as well in comparison of your prayers with those of Paul. I’m sure that I am not alone in this.
Now I don’t think that this means that we are necessarily praying for the wrong things. After all, we are told to be casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7) and Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6). Basically, if it is a concern of ours, we are to bring the matter before God and place it in His much more capable hands rather than being anxious or worrying about it. This would include whatever might be a concern to us. However, I think that what we see with an examination of Paul’s prayers is not that we pray for the wrong things but that we fail to pray for the best things. We are actually limiting our prayers and don’t even realize it. As Alistair Begg has said, “All that matters may be brought before God, but what we bring before God is not always what matters most.” Let’s take a little bit of time to look at some of those things that “matter most” which Paul often focused on in his prayers.
One thing we notice when we turn to any of Paul’s prayers is that he was not as focused on physical concerns. We don’t find many requests about physical healing or relief from physical pain in them. Rather, Paul spends his prayers on the spiritual growth for those who comprise the congregations which he wrote. Not that Paul did not care about someone’s sickness or aching joints but he recognized that the greater need was spiritual. In light of eternity, what matters most is our growth in grace and godliness. Which is why we find him praying more for the members of the congregation to come to know the love of Christ greater and deeper (Ephesians 3:14-19). Such will better prepare us for eternity than limiting our request to our physical comfort here and now. A greater and more robust knowledge of Christ’s love for us will also be that which can sustain us through our physical trials and difficulties. Regardless of what circumstances and situations that we may face, we need to know that we are loved by God and accepted in Christ, especially when the nature of those circumstances and situations might cause us to doubt such truth. Do you see how immensely practical this type of prayer can be?
We also don’t find Paul praying for health, wealth, and material prosperity for the believers in the churches. Instead, his prayer is that they would come to know more of the spiritual riches that they already have in Christ and be living for the heavenly inheritance that awaits them (Ephesians 1:15-18). The splendid news for the believer is that we have far greater riches in glory than we could ever amass here on this earth. And this inheritance is so much better than the things of this world because moth and rust will not destroy it nor thieves ever steal it (Matthew 6:19-20) but it is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading (1 Peter 1:4). Even greater is the fact that this inheritance is God Himself. We will be with Him for all eternity in the New Heavens and New Earth (Revelation 21:1-4). Instead of praying for bigger and better things here, doesn’t it make more sense to pray like Paul that we would not lose sight of the true prosperity in Christ which awaits us? The inheritance that already belongs to us which we don’t yet fully possess. One of our biggest problems is that we wind up getting too comfortable here and begin to forget our true riches. Hence why such a prayer is so necessary for us.
We see Paul pray for power for believers as well (Ephesians 1:19-23). The truth is that we cannot live the Christian life on our own. We do not have the strength. But the good news is that God has not only saved us but has given us His Spirit to do in us what we cannot do ourselves. The same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead lives within us (Romans 6:10) and enables us to do what God has commanded. Following Paul, we ought to pray that we continually know this power and rely on it for all that the Lord has called us to do.
Do you see what I mean when I mentioned earlier that we are limiting our prayers when we focus only on our physical needs and comfort? There are so much richer and fuller things to be praying for that we discover when we pay attention to how Paul himself prayed. May this encourage us to pray bigger prayers like the Apostle Paul!
Love in Christ,