Read His Words Before Ours!
Few things will highlight the holes in our own prayer lives like studying Paul’s prayers for the body of believers. It’s impossible to read Paul’s fervent, devoted prayers for the Church and miss the pure, undiluted love of God manifest in his heart. The staggering reality of Paul’s dramatic conversion from his former life as Saul, who persecuted the early church with vigor and violence, gives glory to the God of transformation. His Spirit-led words are saturated with God’s heart for every believer, and as I read through his prayers in preparation for this study, I was convicted that even on my best days, it is rare I have prayed with the kind of conviction and fervor Paul embodied.
Through every prayer, it is evident Paul considered each member of the body of Christ a gift to him, personally. In every passage, he thanked God for other believers. In fact, he even said he never stopped giving thanks for them. He was desperate to be with them. That kind of emotion and desire … to put it bluntly, it’s not of this world.
Think about Paul’s words in the first chapter of Romans. “God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in telling the good news about his Son—that I constantly mention you, always asking in my prayers that if it is somehow in God’s will, I may now at last succeed in coming to you.” (Romans 1:9-10)
Beloved, is there anyone we “constantly mention” to God in prayer? Anyone we always ask Him to reunite with us? I mean, really think about it. Can we honestly say we feel the way he described about our literal family members? It’s culturally acceptable to joke about our in-laws, but when we hold the practice up against the light of love we see portrayed here, it all feels pretty crass, doesn’t it?
Furthermore, what do Paul’s intense prayers and care for his fellow believers show us about God? Paul did many incredible things to advance the Kingdom of God, but he could take no credit for the love and leadership he exhibited after his radical conversion. The pure, fervent love God gave Paul for the body of Christ was a heavenly gift designed to give glory to God and reveal His incredible power and majesty to the world.
Because God’s plan has always been family.
He sees us, exactly as we are: rejected, flawed, sinful people. He knows every hidden intention, every secret and not-so-secret sin. And He wants us anyway. He calls each of us by name. And when we respond to Him, confess our sin and invite Him to be Lord of our lives, He does it and makes us part of His family. Sons and daughters. Co-heirs with Christ.
But not family in the broken, earthly way.
Family in the heavenly, knit-together-by-the-Holy-Spirit, grafted-together-in-the-Vine kind of way. Woven together with a love we are utterly incapable of generating. It is completely, undeniably beyond us. Paul’s prayers for the believers in the early Church left no question every member was vitally important, and sharing equally in the mission.
Over and over, Paul prayed his brothers and sisters in Christ would do no wrong.
That they would become spiritually mature, and for God to grant them wisdom and revelation.
That they would know the hope of Christ’s calling.
That they would keep growing in knowledge and discernment.
That they would have great endurance and patience.
That they would be joyful, pure and blameless, and filled with the fruit of righteousness.
That God would deal mercifully with them.
The conviction is strong, isn’t it? It is for me, too. I can’t remember the last time I prayed that a fellow believer would do no wrong. Have I prayed for their physical health? Absolutely. Have I prayed for their finances? Yes. Their family? Favor? Blessings? Yes, yes, yes. These prayers aren’t necessarily wrong, but do they have anything to do with spiritual health and calling?
When I see the example Paul gave us in his letters, I realize I haven’t taken on the full measure of my calling to pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Maybe you haven’t, either.
So where do we go from here?
I’m going to take a page from Paul and issue a little encouragement and exhortation to us all, myself included.
Let’s ask God to fill us with His love for each other, and to give us a hunger to pray for one another.
We are members of one body, through the Spirit of adoption, by which we cry “Abba, Father!”. (Romans 8:15) First, let’s confess we do not possess the ability to love one another the way Christ loved us. We have to be real about where we are, and we must invite the Holy Spirit to change our hearts and minds. Every one of us has a specific role to fill. We need each other, and we need to pray for one another!
Abba, You are the Maker of heaven and earth, and You have drawn me into Your family. I don’t fully understand what it is to love the way You love, but I want to know, Lord. Fill me with Your love for my brothers and sisters in Christ. I want to experience the kind of love Paul had for the believers in the early Church. Will You call Your Bride to life in this today? Jesus said the world would know we belong to You by our love. We can’t manufacture it; only in You will we ever fulfill His words. This day, my life, and everything I have are Yours. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!