‘May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 15:5, 6).’
When addressing the Corinthian church in his first epistle Paul wrote, “Therefore I urge you, imitate me (1 Corinthians 4:16),” and in the same letter he implored them, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ (11:1).”
As a steward ‘of the mystery of God (4:1)’ Paul suffered persecution for preaching the gospel. This was his direct calling from Christ (Acts 26:15, 16), and he encouraged the Corinthians to imitate him and to rejoice in their sufferings (cf. Colossians 1:24).
We would do well to copy him in his faithfulness, fervent love, obedience, commitment, witness, and in his prayer life. We would profit from taking note of his prayers and endeavouring to pray like him. By studying them we can learn a great deal about what was important to Paul – what was on his heart. Often it was the welfare of his spiritual children (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:15).
By examining and analysing prayers found in his epistles we’ll learn a great deal that can help us to pray more effectively. Of course, all prayer must be done in faith and in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18) and with an expectation that God will answer them according to His will. Then we shall be able to rejoice in hope, and be fervent in the Spirit (cf. Romans 12:11, 12).
Prayers Found in Paul’s Epistles
In his letter to the Romans we find Paul prayed for their endurance and he encouraged them for glorifying God. He wanted them to be of one mind (15:5-6), and he wanted ‘the God of hope’ (v. 13) to fill them with joy and peace. They were to trust Him for being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Corinthians 1, 2
When praying for the Corinthians he thanked God for enriching them with speech and knowledge, and he asked that they should not lack any spiritual gift, and for them to be blameless on the day of the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:3-8).
In his second letter he praised ‘the God and Father of Jesus’ who comforted them in their troubles and he prayed that they might comfort one another (2 Corinthians 1:2-4).
He thanked God they were His captives for spreading knowledge of Him (2:14), and he desired that they would do right while acting in the truth for people to observe them standing the test (v. 9), i.e., they were to be good witnesses. Finally he prayed for them to receive ‘the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (13:14).’
While addressing the Ephesians he asked that ‘the Father of Glory’ would give them ‘the Spirit of wisdom and revelation’ for a greater knowledge of Him (1:15-17). He continued praying for them to be given the knowledge of ‘the hope and riches of glory’ they would receive as their inheritance. He wanted them to know Christ’s power for them – the power of His resurrection; also the knowledge of Christ’s authority and dominion, as He was the Head over all things, and the church, His body (vv. 18-23).
Later he asked God again for them to know of His glorious riches, and for them to be strengthened with power through His Spirit. He prayed for Christ to dwell in their hearts through faith (3:14-17a). He asked that they might be rooted and established in love with power to know the fulness of Christ’s love which was beyond their [intellectual] understanding. He wanted them to be filled with the fullness of God (vv.17b-19). He gave glory to God for He could do immeasurably more than they could imagine according to the power that was at work within them (3:20-21).
When writing to the Philippians he prayed with joy because of his partnership in the gospel with them (1:2-5). He desired they would abound with love in knowledge and deep insight being pure for discerning the day of Christ and for reaping the fruit of righteousness to God’s glory (vv. 9-11).
Paul thanked God for the faith of the Colossians and their love of His people in the knowledge of the hope stored up for them (1:2-5). Through the Spirit he wanted them to know God’s will, and in this knowledge to live worthily, bearing fruit. He wanted them to be strengthened with power for endurance and patience, and he joyfully thanked God that they were qualified to share in the inheritance of the kingdom of light (1:9-12). He prayed for them to devote themselves to prayer, and together to proclaim the mystery of Christ (4:2-4). His desire was for them to stand firm in all the will of God, and for them to be mature and assured.
Thessalonians 1, 2
Paul thanked God for them. He remembered their work of faith and love that was inspired by their hope in Jesus. He noted that their faith and works came with the power of the Holy Spirit and that they had a deep conviction (1 Thessalonians 1:5).
He prayed he would meet with them to supply what was lacking in their faith. He asked for their love to increase and for their hearts to be strengthened; for them to be blameless and holy when Jesus comes (3:10-13). He also asked ‘the God of peace’ to sanctify them, and for their spirit, soul and body to be kept blameless until the day of Christ (5:23).
In his second letter he thanked God for their growing faith, and their perseverance when undergoing persecution (2 Thessalonians 1:2-4). He asked God to make them worthy of their calling, and for Him to satisfy their desire to do good to His glory through Jesus (vv. 11, 12). He prayed for Jesus and His Father to encourage their hearts and to strengthen them ‘in every good deed and word (2:16, 17).’ He continued praying for the message of the Lord to spread rapidly and for the Thessalonians to be delivered from evil people (3:1, 2). He asked that the Lord would direct their hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance (v 5). Then he prayed a benediction: ‘Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you (v 16).’
In his short letter to Philemon and the church he prayed that the sharing of their faith might ‘become effective by the acknowledgement of every good thing’ that was in them ‘in Christ Jesus (vv. 3-6).’
Paul’s Prayer Themes
The following are themes featured in his epistles:
Romans – endurance, encouragement, God’s glory, joy, peace, power of the Holy Spirit.
Corinthians 1, 2 – enrichment, spiritual gifts, blamelessness, comfort, knowledge of Christ, witness, grace, love, fellowship.
Ephesians – the Spirit of wisdom, revelation, knowledge, hope, Christ’s power, Christ’s authority, Christ’s dominion, Christ’s glorious riches, the fullness of Christ’s love, the fullness of God, the glorification of God.
Philippians – partnership in the gospel, love, knowledge, insight, the fruit of righteousness.
Colossians – knowing God’s will, living worthily, bearing fruit, being strengthened with power, having endurance, patience, the inheritance to come, devotion to prayer, proclamation of the mystery of Christ, standing firm in God’s will, maturity, assurance.
Thessalonians 1, 2 – works of faith, love, hope, power of the Holy Spirit, conviction, love, strengthened hearts, blamelessness, holiness, sanctification, perseverance, worthiness, goodness, encouragement, spreading of the gospel, deliverance from evil, hearts to be set in God’s love and peace
Philemon – the effective sharing of faith, the love of God’s people, a deepening appreciation of good things shared in Christ.
Paul’s Favourite Topics
Paul wrote about many things, but here are a few of his favourite topics, some of which he presented to God in prayer. I’ve set them in order of frequency of use. It’s interesting that Paul never used the word ‘hell’; instead he preferred ‘perdition’.
Faith , Grace , Holy , Love [73), Glory , Gospel , Righteousness , Power , Truth , Death , Good , Peace , Hope , Life , Evil , Wisdom , Heaven , Wrath , Comfort , Joy , Mystery , Salvation , Forgive , Patience , Knowledge , Kingdom , Light , Darkness , Goodness , Crucified , Perfect , Suffering , Perdition , Persecution .
‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Corinthians 13:14).’