Paul had been arrested in Jerusalem, spent two years in Herod’s prison in Caesarea, appealed for a trial before the Roman Emperor, travelled to Rome by sea, was shipwrecked along the way, and then was imprisoned in a Roman jail waiting for that trial. From his prison cell, he wrote the four prison epistles: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.
As Paul addressed his audience, he did something a bit unusual. As his pen glided over the parchment, he began to pray, and he recorded those petitions for us to enjoy. He taught us how to pray!
For example, Paul recorded his supplication on half of the Ephesians. “For this reason I kneel before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:14–21).
Meditate on that! Chew on it. Savor it. Notice that Paul didn’t pray penny-ante prayers. He didn’t pray for the little boo-boos but for “the length and width, height and depth of God’s love” and that they might “know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge” and “be filled with all the fullness of God!” Wow!
Here’s a couple of other examples. Paul prayed for the church at Rome: “Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, according to Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one mind and one voice... Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”(Romans 15:5–6, 13). He also prayed for the saints at Thessalonica. “We always pray for you that our God will make you worthy of his calling, and by his power fulfill your every desire to do good and your work produced by faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified by you, and you by him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:11–12).
In the first chapter of his letter to the church at Philippi, with pen to paper, Paul prayed. “I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you may approve the things that are superior and may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9–11).
Paul didn’t play patty-cake with his prayers. He battled spiritually and he soared to spiritual heights. He didn’t pray for his friends’ comfort and ease but for abounding love to “keep on growing” and he prayed that their lives would produce and exhibit spiritual fruit. “Oh God, I beg You! Help my friends in Philippi to be filled with the spirit of “Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God!”
Let’s learn to pray like Paul! Let’s pray God-sized, Christ-honoring, Spirit-filled prayers. Let’s beseech the throne of the Almighty requesting revival in our land and renewal in our churches. Let’s pray that God would do what only God can do!
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.