How shallow my prayers can often be. “I pray God’s richest blessings on you; I pray for traveling mercies.” What do those word even mean?
Do they mean anything at all? Or are they only Christianised ‘white noise’? Just filler and fluff, about as meaningful and helpful as ‘sending happy thoughts your way’?
I’m challenged and convicted when I read Ephesians 3 because my prayers are frequently little more than that sort of fluff.
Not so when the apostle Paul prayed.
His prayers had purpose, they had meaning, they had power. His prayers had direction and specificity. Paul prayed with the confidence that God would answer his prayers. I’m often not so sure I can say the same of mine.
What sets Paul’s prayers apart from mine (and maybe yours too) – apart from the fact that we often pray with little faith that God will answer them?
It seems to me that Paul’s prayers are very specific because they are based on the promises of God, on the Scriptures, on the work that God has done, and on God’s revealed will.
Listen to some of his prayers, just from the book of Ephesians:
- … that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him [Eph 1:17]
- … having the eyes of your hearts enlightened [Eph 1:18]
- … to know the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints [Eph 1:18]
- … to know what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe [Eph 1:19]
- … may (God) grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit [Eph 3:16]
- … that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith [Eph 3:17]
- … that you may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge [Eph 3:18-19]
- … that you may be filled with all the fullness of God [Eph 3:20]
There is an unmistakable richness to his prayers that mine usually lack. I’m regularly reminded of the shallowness of my prayers, the lack of any real substance in them. And I realise I need to learn how to pray, even after 30+ years of Christian faith.
The list above is only a small sampling of Paul’s prayers. You will find a compiled list all of Paul’s prayers – over 40 of them – on this website: A Complete List of the Apostle Paul’s Prayers in the Bible. I think you’ll find them instructive.
For those who find their prayer life lacking, another valuable resource is DA Carson’s book “Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation.” Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation
Too often we pray with wishful thinking rather than real faith. Only prayers offered up in faith will be answered according to James [see Jam 1:6-8 & 5:15]
What is the key to answered prayer? How do we pray with real faith that God will answer? We pray back to God what He has already spoken. We pray His word and His promises.
Let’s face it. If God has already said He is going to do it – or if He has already told us to pray for it – He will respond. God will always do what He says He will do.
Won’t you join me in this adventure of learning to pray like Paul, like the disciples, even like Jesus? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to pray with confidence and to pray with substance? We have the examples in the Bible. Let’s learn how to do it for ourselves.