The Prayers of Paul

In Timothy Keller’s book Prayer, he observes the startling truth that Paul never prayers for the circumstances of his friends. Keller writes, “It is remarkable that in all of his writings Paul’s prayers for his friends contain no appeals for changes in their circumstances. It is certain that they lived in the midst of many dangers and hardships. They faced persecution, death from disease, oppression by powerful forces, and separation from loved ones. Yet in these prayers you see not one petition for a better emperor, for protection from marauding armies, or even for bread for the next meal. Paul does not pray for the goods we would usually have near the top of our lists of requests…[what] he most frequently prayed for his friends, was for them to know God better. ”

So…what exactly did Paul pray for his friends? Below is a compilation of passages to answer this question.

Prayers of Paul:

I thank my God every time I remember you.  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.  And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. 

(Phil. 1:3-6; Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9-12; Eph. 3:16-19; Eph. 1:17-19; Col. 3:12-17; Phil. 4:8-9)

Questions to Consider:

What do you find most interesting about Paul’s prayers for his friends?

In what ways may God be inviting you to change how you pray?

preparing for easter (part 2)

Over the past 48 hours or so, there’s been a flurry of news and social media chatter about a “Religious Freedom” bill that passed in the state of Indiana. Advocates for the bill are shouting one thing, and those rallying against the bill are shouting another. There have been threats to burn down businesses, threats to ban sporting events in the state, and much more. More interestingly, the word ‘tolerance’ has been used by both those for and those against the law. Sadly, few are offering any real solutions.

Why did I bring this up? Well, it’s not to get into my personal thoughts on the law or the state of culture in the U.S. Perhaps that’ll come another time.

Instead, I share this as a simple follow-up to the post I made a few days ago. It was then that I offered a simple challenge – give up reading and/or watching the news throughout the week of Easter and instead, use that time to read through the Gospel of John. (And oh, just in case you’re wondering how I know what’s been happening in the news, it’s because I slammed through the Gospel of John rather quickly!)

It seemed like such a simple challenge, yet it impacted me a bit more than I ever would’ve anticipated.

As I finished reading through the Gospel of John, I quickly came to a couple of different conclusions as a result. One is that I apparently spend too much time reading through news articles. Articles which, as mentioned before, don’t provide a great deal of information, but are written to make the reader excited or angry about something. The ‘news’ regarding the Religious Freedom bill in Indiana as well as the comments being made about it throughout social media is proof positive!

A second conclusion is that the Gospel of John is just as fascinating to me today as it was the first time I read through it. By my count, the word ‘believe’ is used 83 times. The general sense of the term means to believe or trust that Jesus was the Messiah sent from God. In fact, John specifically says that he wrote the book so that people would believe in Jesus.

But in my reading, it was John 17 that really stood out. It’s here that Jesus Himself takes the opportunity to pray for all who do believe in Him. He prays, specifically, that they will be one just as He and the Father are one. And this is where things get interesting.

This weekend, Billions of people around the world are going to join together in worship. Think about that for just a minute. Not hundreds, or thousands. But BILLIONS of people will worship Jesus this weekend. That’s just amazing.

And Jesus’ prayer for them was that they would join together as one. Some will have grown up Methodist, and others Baptist. Some Catholic, and others Lutheran. Some may be advocates for a Religious Freedom bill, and others against. But their religious background or denomination isn’t what really matters, nor are their differing opinions in politics. What really matters is Jesus. His desire was that all who believe would come together under the banner of His name, and that they would simplify life by focusing their energies on loving God and loving others.

Maybe we as believers in Jesus can all continue to learn from His prayer. Maybe we’ll all come to realize we spend too much time reading through news. Maybe we’ll all come to see that far too often we share our opinions on things that don’t really matter. Maybe we’ll all come to see that far too often we focus more of our energies on our differences than our similarities.

And maybe this weekend, we’ll remember His prayer…and we’ll worship Him as one.

 

the pursuit

A few months ago, I took the opportunity to begin reading through Timothy Keller’s book on the subject of prayer. It may seem strange, but as a pastor I’m sorry to say that the area of regular, consistent prayer is one of godly disciplines in which I lack.

As I began reading Keller’s book, however, I discovered that I’m not alone. He shared that even as a pastor, he struggled in this area for many years as well. And one of the things he did to begin praying more regularly was to summarize each of the Psalms (yes, all 150 of them!) into a short sentence or two. This then gave him the opportunity to go through each of his notes so that he could pray through the Psalms consistently.

I figured, why not. I’ll give that a try as well.

So every few days I’ve read a Psalm or two, summarized the principle being taught in my own words, and then written out a prayer.

Some examples so far include:

Psalm 1 – Those who delight in God’s word experience joy; those who do not experience condemnation and judgment.

Psalm 6 – No matter how hard the circumstances, we can remain confident that God hears our prayers.

Psalm 12 – The Lord’s promises are purer than pure; He protects the oppressed.

Psalm 19 – God’s wisdom is found all around us. In nature. In His word. In my life. In the lives of others.

All of these truths are great reminders.

But today I read Psalm 23. It’s perhaps one of the most well-known Psalms within our culture. It reads:

1 The LORD is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
4 Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
5 You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the LORD
forever.

Sound familiar?

As I read through it, however, one verse stuck out more than the others. It was verse 6. Take a brief opportunity to read through it again, but slowly.

“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life.”

As I began to think through the implications of this passage, I felt compelled to do a bit more research. And it wasn’t long before I learned that the Hebrew word translated, ‘pursuit’, is only used in this context one time in the entirety of the Old Testament. In every other occurrence it’s used in the context of hostile enemies pursuing another in battle. But only here is it used with God’s goodness and faithfulness doing the pursuing.

David – despite sometimes questioning whether or not God heard his prayers, despite sometimes wondering why He couldn’t sense the presence of God in his life, despite sometimes responding to life circumstances in the worst possible way – he still somehow knew that God was pursuing him. David knew what it was like to pursue others in battle, and he knew what it was like to be pursued. And somewhere deep inside, God reminded David that He was pursuing him, relentlessly, with the most profound goodness and love.

Today, you may be wrestling through some of the same thoughts David wrestled with. You may be questioning whether God is hearing your prayers. You may be wondering why you sometimes can’t sense of the presence of God in your life. You may be responding to some of life’s circumstances in the worst possible way.

But, may you be reminded that God is pursuing you. He’s relentlessly pursuing you with His goodness and unfailing love. You may think you’re not worthy of it. (And oh, by the way, you’re not.) You may think you don’t deserve it. (And oh, by the way, you don’t.) But He’s pursuing you nevertheless.

How will you respond to His pursuit?

your will be done

I really enjoyed reading the Gospel of Matthew over the past couple of weeks.  And as I read through it, there were a number of things that stood out to me.  But there was one phrase Jesus spoke that I dwelled upon more than any other.  “Your will be done.”

When teaching the disciples how to pray, Jesus said, “Your will be done.”

When Jesus knew He was in His final hours, He prayed, “Your will be done.”

This ought to give each of us a different perspective on how we pray.  For example, when your small group or ministry team prays, are you seeking God’s will?  When your family prays, are you seeking God’s will?  When you pray, are you seeking God’s will?

Again, Jesus’ words were, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  There’s much we can learn from following His example.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Your will be done.

In our hurts.

Your will be done.

In our struggles.

Your will be done.

In our fears.

Your will be done.

In our pleasure.

Your will be done.

In our excitement.

Your will be done.

In our tears.

Your will be done.

In our pain.

Your will be done.

In our brokenness.

Your will be done.

In our guilt.

Your will be done.

In our shame.

Your will be done.

In our confessions.

Your will be done.

In our sadness.

Your will be done.

In our freedom.

Your will be done.

In our yearning.

Your will be done.

In our kindness.

Your will be done.

In our goodness.

Your will be done.

In our faith.

Your will be done.

In our hope.

Your will be done.

In our love.

Your will be done.

In our marriages.

Your will be done.

In our lives.

Your will be done.

In our relationships.

Your will be done.

In our purpose.

Your will be done.

In our everything.

Your will be done.

Your will be done.

Your will be done.