My studies and reading this week are all saying that the common ingredient in the success of a ministry, the outpouring of revival, and the growth of the Christian church is prayer. Whatever else I do, if it is not bathed in prayer, how can I hope for success?
Prayer brings “strangers and aliens” together and makes of them “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” Prayer builds the church on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Christ Jesus is cornerstone and it is His prayers of intercession that are being answered to make of us “a holy temple in the Lord.” (See Ephesians 2:19–21 and John 17)
Paul also sets an example for me. He was on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians when encountered by Jesus Christ who opened his eyes to truth, yet “although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing.” His companions “led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.”
When in that state, God sent a Christian named Ananias, telling him to “look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying.” In his prayers, God gave Saul/Paul a vision that “Ananias would come and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” (Acts 9:1–19)
Thus began Paul’s journey with Christ, and his life of prayer. His letters to the churches begin with prayer for them. His ministry reflected the power of his praying as God blessed him in answering his requests. He prayed specifically and with focus. His requests were much less about temporal blessings, but intense concerning eternal and spiritual matters. The New Testament describes how he prayed . . .
Romans 1:9–10: without ceasing, desiring God’s will for his life and ministry.
Ephesians 1:15–23: with thanks for others, wanting them to be wise, know Christ, know the hope He gives and the riches of their inheritance, also knowing Christ’s power toward them, the power He has in all things, and His exalted position in the scheme of things.
Ephesians 3:14–21: that believers would be strengthened with Holy Spirit power, experiencing Christ in their lives by faith, be deeply rooted in His love, and be filled with God’s fullness. He wanted them to realize that God is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” and that Jesus Christ would be glorified in their lives.
Philippians 1:9–11: that Christian love would “abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment” so believers would “approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
Colossians 1:9–14: not ceasing to ask that believers “be filled with the knowledge of (God’s) will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Paul wanted each one to “be strengthened with all power, according to (God’s) glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father” who has qualified us to share in the Gospel for “God has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
When I read the prayers of Paul and compare them to many of my prayers, I feel puny. I focus far more on the needs of the day. This is not wrong since we are to “pray about everything” but it so easily transforms prayer into mush that is selfish and short-sighted. Paul understood that the scope of God’s purposes in this world are eternal and enormous. And he prayed accordingly.
I’m not Paul, but God prods me to better follow his example — for the sake of the church and for the glory of Jesus Christ.