Read His Words Before Ours!
Have you ever told someone a story, only to have them remind you they were there? Sometimes, while we’re talking, we forget to whom we are speaking: of course we remember their identity at a basic level, but we might also assume something of them inaccurately . . . like their presence or absence on a particular occasion!
The same thing happens in prayer.
We might pray, “Father,” and then speak, assuming God is distant, cold, and uninvolved. There are times when we tell Him all about a problem and how to solve it, grateful He knows every detail, but forgetting He also has power over every detail.
While there are many powerful insights to glean from the apostle Paul’s many prayers as recorded in the Bible, I am most often struck by Paul’s assumptions, or beliefs, about God as he prays.
“[I]n everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6, emphasis mine)
Paul believed God wants to hear it all. In Psalm 139, the psalmist reveals God knows us intimately, even knowing our thoughts before they reach our tongues. If He’s aware of everything anyway, why not share everything with Him?
Paul’s prayer life demonstrates this reality. A quick perusal of all prayers recorded by Paul in the Bible show his prayers cover a wide variety of topics. Similarly, all the spheres of our lives – physical, social, emotional, work, etc – are fair game for prayer.
Paul prayed for healing and relief from suffering. (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)
He prayed for God to make him fit for his work and to enable him to share the gospel well. (Ephesians 6:19-20)
He thanked God for the fellow believers God placed in his life. (Philippians 1:3-6)
He prayed for others’ spiritual lives. (Colossians 1:3-14)
When we read Paul’s prayers for other believers, we also find Paul believed God wants us to know Him better.
To the Ephesians, Paul wrote, “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.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)
Similar words are echoed throughout his letters, as Paul prayed for other believers to be filled with ever-increasing knowledge of Christ, to be one in the Lord, to keep growing in God. Through his prayers, we learn Paul fervently believed God delights in filling us with His fullness, and He wants us to know His love.
Another hallmark of Paul’s recorded prayers is thanksgiving; gratitude is closely tied to the Biblical command to pray.
For example, let’s revisit Philippians 4:6 (emphasis mine): “[I]n everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Paul believed God was good at giving good things. If Paul was praying about a good gift, he assumed it came from God, which he lived out time and again, in thanking God for the very people to whom he was writing. If Paul was petitioning God for something, he believed God’s answer would be for his good. He thanked Jesus for strengthening him and working through him, even though Paul was a sinner. (1 Timothy 1:12-14) In everything, God’s good provision meant prayer could coincide with thankfulness.
I don’t know about you, but reading Paul’s prayers convicts me that too often, I believe less of God than I should when I pray. Afraid of being demanding, or getting it wrong, I don’t pray about everything. Concerned with things of the world or not being spiritual enough, I pray as if I should already know God thoroughly, and not as though He wants me to know Him more and more. And it’s easy to fall into the trap of praying, especially petitioning, without thanks!
But one of Paul’s go-to prayers, which marks many introductions and conclusions in his letters, offers encouragement, “Grace and peace to you.“ (1 Corinthians 1:3)
Today, as we engage with God in prayer, believing the best of God, we can also pray assuming we will experience His grace and peace as we learn.
Thanks be to God!
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!