Paul lived an incredible life. He went from an aggressive persecutor of the church to an aggressive follower of Jesus Christ. He was shipwrecked three times, bitten by a venomous snake, stoned and left for dead, deathly ill for over a year, imprisoned and eventually beheaded. Yet he would write two thirds of the New Testament and stay firmly fixed on his calling to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul was probably able to do all this because of his strong prayer life. Each of his letters to the churches are filled with him praying for them and asking for very focused prayers for himself. His recorded prayers are not long but they are powerful. Paul is very consistent with his prayers through each Epistle and Ephesians provides us with a great example.
When you have a chance I suggest that you start by reading Ephesians 1:1-23. Paul begins in verse two by praying a blessing of grace and peace over the church. (This was a standard greeting of the day and used by other Apostles). Grace and Peace are such powerful words. When you actually look at the original Greek, you see that Paul prayed for the Ephesians to be “lavished” with Grace and Peace. If you think about it, when you have God’s grace and His peace, what else do you really need? His grace is given to you freely. You don’t have to work for it and you don’t need to be good to earn it. His peace is complete; it is greater than our circumstances. Our circumstances may be difficult at times but His peace will see us through every time. It is a peace that invades our thoughts and emotions.
Paul then uses verses 3-14 to praise God and remind the Ephesians of the good things they have received from God. When life is hard, it is easy to forget the blessings that God has lavished upon us. Paul reminded them (and now reminds us) of how we have been adopted by God and how we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus. It is so easy to forget all of the good things that God has done for us. Paul wanted to be sure they never forgot the gift of the Holy Spirit and that we are counted as God’s very own possession. On a regular basis it is important to write down how God has blessed your life. When did He show up when you thought you had no hope? Then weave into your prayers those events along with Paul’s reminders.
In verses 15-23 Paul begins to thank God for the Ephesians and prays that they will receive God’s wisdom and revelation and that they would know Him better. Paul makes sure they know that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is working in their own lives and that same power works in our life.
At the end of Ephesians, Paul asks for the church to pray for him. When he wrote this Epistle he was in prison. One would think he would ask them to pray for him to be set free. However, Paul saw beyond his current circumstances to something greater. He asked them to pray that he would preach with boldness. In Ephesians 6:19 he asks that he could speak “fearlessly” (NIV). He is in prison, in chains and all he asks for is the ability to preach fearlessly.
Let’s break it down to the few key points of Paul’s prayer:
1. Pray for the Grace and Peace of God to be lavished on you, your family and for others.
2. When you pray take time to remember the work of salvation and remember the specific blessings God has worked in your life.
3. Pray for yourself and others that you may know God in an ever deeper and richer way.
4. Pray beyond your circumstances. God is madly and passionately in love with you. He cares about your needs but something happens when we focus our prayers on a greater cause, a cause where you will live out his perfect and good will. If we have God’s grace and peace and pray beyond our circumstances, I am sure God will meet our needs in the right way.
These thoughts are not intended to be the only way we pray. My hope is that they will become a starting place so that your prayer life will grow richer and more effective.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the prayers of Paul. What other key elements stand out to you?
Jon Stallings is a bi-vocational pastor and blogger from Stockbridge GA. He is co-pastor, along with his wife Janice, of Life Church in Conyers Ga. He also works for a technology company in Atlanta. Jon is passionate about helping others live out their own God given calling. He blogs about faith, leadership and life at www.jonstallings.com. You can also connect with him on twitter @jonstallings