My prayer list is scrawled on six daily pages in an old Daytimer. I have friends who use Smartphones or iPads. No doubt some people are prompted to pray every time they pass the magnetic prayer cards on the refrigerator. Whatever form they take, most lists include other believers and Christian organizations. Paul’s prayer list could well have been similar (minus the vinyl magnets); in his letters to churches and co-workers, he often tells them that he is praying for them. But Paul didn’t leave us a skeleton of a prayer list, he fleshed it out with the substance of what he prayed for them. There is a fascinating pattern to his prayers.
Several times Paul talks about praying for a deep heart knowledge of God that goes beyond intellectual understanding and includes experience. His prayer for illumination centers on knowing God in that profound way (Eph. 1:17; Col. 1:10) but includes knowing the hope of our calling (Eph. 1:18), the riches of glory in our inheritance (Eph. 1:18), God’s love (Eph. 3:18-19), will (Col. 1:9), and power (Eph. 1:19).
It is not enough to know about God and what He has done for us. For instance, in his prayer for power, Paul asks that the people he cares for would have that power inside them, strengthening them (Eph. 3:16, Col. 1:11; 2 Thess. 1:11). He also prays for such an indwelling of Christ that the believers become filled with the fullness of God (Eph. 3:17, 19).
Paul chose not to talk about how Christians can grow in the knowledge of God. Many of the first Christians had a Jewish background or were instructed by others who did. Scripture was part of their culture and from scripture they derived a solid foundation of understanding about God. Beyond that, we grow closer to God by seeing how He works in our life and the lives of others. Through His indwelling Holy Spirit, God fills us with His every quality, including His power. Unlike the first Christians, in our increasingly secular societies, we need to fight to read the Bible and to nurture the inner life of the Spirit.
The bulk of Paul’s praying seems to be for those two broad topics. Here’s why: The knowledge of God and the inner life of the resurrected Christ provide us with all the direction, motivation, and resources we need to spend our time on earth living for God. As we get to know Him, we discover what pleases Him, and we delight to do those things. Furthermore, His power is available to turn our desires into fruit that glorifies Him.
Paul touches on that fruit in some of his prayers. He asks for love to abound (Phil. 1:9) and for lives that are worthy and result in pleasing God (Phil. 1:11; Col. 1:10-12). Paul prays that the believers will stand firm in faith, sincerity, and blamelessness until Jesus returns (Phil. 1:10). The ultimate goal extends beyond our individual blessing to the glory of God (Eph. 3:21; Phil. 1:11; 2 Thess. 1:12).
Try praying something like the following for the Christian individuals and organizations on your prayer list:
Lord, send your Spirit of wisdom and revelation to so that they will deeply know you and all you have done for them—what you have called them to, what their inheritance in you is, the mighty power you make available to them, and your incredible love. Lord, please fill with your indwelling Holy Spirit so that your life will shine through for everyone to see.
May be so clear about your will and confident of your enabling that they are not afraid to dream big dreams, pray bold prayers, and see tremendous fruit for your glory and the extension of your kingdom. Amen.
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