Paul's Prayers - An Example for Us to Follow
What Do You Pray About?
PART 3 - Paul's Prayer Requests for Himself
There are several instances in which Paul mentions prayer requests for himself
and (when applicable) for those who were with him. These requests are
listed below. Note that, as far as his own life was concerned, Paul's
focus wasn't that he would "have a nice day." As
you examine these prayer requests, pay attention not only to the
requests themselves, but also to the motives or reasons he gives, for
having such prayer requests. (Example: Who did he focus his attention on?)
Prayer for God's help, when he (and those with him) proclaimed the
good news about Jesus Christ.
- That God would provide the opportunity for him (and those with
him) to speak and be heard - Colossians 4:3.
- That he would know what to say - Ephesians 6:19+.
- That he would proclaim the message clearly - Colossians 4:4.
- That he would be bold, not afraid, as he proclaimed the message -
- That the message would be accepted by many (that it would spread
and be honored) - 2 Thessalonians 3:1.
Prayer that what he did would be accepted by the other believers
- Romans 15:31.
- NOTE: He was bringing a gift to the poverty-stricken Jewish
Christians. This gift was from the non-Jewish Christians, and was an
expression of their love for the Jewish Christians. Yet because of
rumors spread by false teachers and others, there was always the
potential of this gift being misunderstood and not accepted in the
Prayer for deliverance from people who opposed him.
- Deliverance from those who did not trust God - 2 Thessalonians
3:2. [These people had rejected the message Paul preached and wanted
to keep it from spreading to others.]
- For deliverance from unbelieving Jews in Judea - Romans 15:30.
[Along with this, he asked them to pray that his "service"
(mentioned above, in Section 2 of this outline) would be acceptable
to the Jewish Christians. Why? So that he would be able to visit the
people he was writing to, and could do so with joy.]
Prayer for deliverance from difficult circumstances and imprisonment.
- NOTE: In these three verses, Paul is not commanding them
to pray this way; rather he is acknowledging that they were
already doing so.
- For deliverance from severe hardships - 2 Corinthians 1:11.
Because of their prayers, God would deliver Paul (and his friends).
And when this happened, many others would then be able to express
gratitude to God for that deliverance. [Note: This need for
deliverance from deadly hardships was an ongoing need. What Paul (and
his friends) suffered went far beyond what they would naturally be
able to endure. Their deliverance would be possible only because they
would be relying on God, not their own strength.]
- For deliverance from chains & death - Philippians 1:19. Paul
expected that, because of their prayers, the Spirit of Jesus Christ
would use the things that had happened, for his deliverance. However,
his primary desire was to exalt Christ under any
circumstances, whether that meant life or death (v. 20). [If it were
up to him, he'd rather die & see Jesus, but for the sake of the
people, he was willing to remain alive (1:21-26).]
- For his release from prison - Philemon 1:22. He expected God to
grant what they prayed, so he told them to get ready for his return.
Prayer that he would be able to visit the people he was writing to.
- So that he could be a blessing to them (that they might become
spiritually stronger), and that he and they could be encouraged by each
other's faith - Romans 1:10-12 (see also 15:32). [Their growing
faith/trust was well known throughout the world. This fact brought
great joy to Paul - Romans 1:8.]
- So that he could help them grow even further in their faith - 1
Thessalonians 3:10. [They were already a source of joy and
encouragement to him, because of their growing faith and love -
1:6-9. This desire to help them grow further was an expression of his
own gratefulness and love for them.]
- NOTE 1: This encouragement worked both ways. Paul and the people
he wrote to were a source of encouragement and blessing to each other.
- NOTE 2: The author of the book of Hebrews is unknown, but some
believe that Paul wrote it. If we include the book of Hebrews in our
list, we would have one additional request for prayer that the author
might soon be able return to his friends - Hebrews 13:19.
If we look at the general context of these prayers for Paul, there
are some principles we can learn. These things are briefly mentioned
here. (A more in-depth look at them can be found at the end of this
study - see "Appendix 2.")
Paul was willing to do the types of things he asked others to do.
Every time Paul asked the people to pray for him, he also
prayed for them. [In the passages we have examined, he expressed his
desires (prayers) for them before he asked them to pray for
him. In some instances, he also asked them to pray for other
Christians, before giving any specific requests for himself.]
Every time Paul mentions a request that they were already praying
for him, he focuses on God as the one who would answer their
prayers. He also mentioned his prayers for them, somewhere in the letter.
When Paul made general comments, such as asking the people to pray
"constantly" (that is, to make it an ongoing characteristic
of their lives), he wasn't asking them to do anything he didn't
already do. He showed them, by his own example, how they should pray:
Praying for them was an ongoing part of his life (Romans
1:9, Ephesians 1:16; Colossians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 2
When it comes to prayer requests for Paul, it may be interesting to compare
Paul's prayer focus to the people's prayer focus. The
people focused on what would benefit Paul - his deliverance from
enemies or his restoration to them. Paul's focus, however, was on
what would benefit the people. His desire was that whatever happened
to him would be for their good. They focused on
Paul, as an expression of their love for him; Paul focused on the
people, as an expression of his love for them. Each fulfilled the
command, "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39)!
[Of course, when they were willing to yield their own wills (and
prayer requests) to the will of their Father in heaven (who does all
things for the good of those who love him - Romans 8:28), they would
also be expressing love for God (Matthew 22:37).]
We should make it our desire to pray for others who are being used by
God. When we do so, we are, in a sense, right there with them. As
Paul told the Roman Christians, when they prayed for him, they were joining
him in his "struggle" (Romans 15:30), in his work for
the kingdom of God.
Dennis Hinks © 1999, 2001
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