I remember last summer when I was going through lots of anxiety and discouragement and I reached out to a few friends I knew would pray for me. Asheritah Ciuciu was one of those sweet gals and she sent me back the most encouraging message on Voxer. She emphasized things in prayer that went far beyond my circumstances. Around the same time, I was reading one of Paul’s epistles (I think Ephesians?) and I realized how much Asheritah’s prayer reflected those things Paul emphasized in prayer much more than just lifting up the desires of my own heart.
It really made me think how often my prayers can be limited to praying for the things based on the requests to pray for (this will hopefully make sense in a minute).
Today I wanted to dive into the prayers of Paul and uncover the things he commonly lifted up and challenge us (myself included!) to expand our prayers beyond what we typically pray for.
As I read through all of Paul’s prayers, I saw 6 major themes! There are definitely more things Paul prayed for but these came up often.
1. He understands what is eternal and how he prays reflects that.
Oh, I pray for eyes like Paul’s! To be so focused on eternity! The thing is, he prays often for the wisdom to see that. We don’t just have to be sad we struggle to see eternity. We can pray for eyes to see it. This is important because we need hope and our hope isn’t something we see.
- That the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you. (Ephesians 1)
- For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) This isn’t an actual prayer but emphasizes Paul’s beliefs.
2. His singular mission is to share the gospel.
So many of his prayers, even those that may not look obviously for the gospel, ultimately are. Even prayers to remain alive often tie back to wanting to share the gospel with more people. His desire is to be used by God to advance the gospel.
- That they may be saved. (Romans 10:1)
- And also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel… (Ephesians 6)
- That God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. (Colossians 4:3-4)
- That the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. (2 Thess. 3:1-2)
- That the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. (Philemon 6)
- That we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith (1 Thess 3:10)
If this one is hitting home for you, check out this blog post on praying for salvation in creative ways.
3. He longs to glorify God in all he does so he prays for things that will glorify God.
If you’ve read Pray Confidently and Consistently, you know how passionate I am about the idea that ultimately the goal of prayer is to bring God glory. That might sound obvious but often we pray and keep things to ourselves or chalk it up as coincidence. Everything God does is to point to Him. How many of our prayers are for our own glory or to simply tuck away and keep for ourselves and to make our bubble more comfortable?
- May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6)
- That our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)
4. He prays for endurance and strength to face the trials he knows will come.
He isn’t praying to escape every trial. We see him pray for God’s protection in trouble, but rarely to simply escape it. Instead, he focuses on praying for strength to go through it. You’ll see several more verses later within other points that tie into this one as well.
- May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)
- That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love. (Ephesians 3:16-17)
5. He prays for the ability to obey.
Friends, can I just confess, this is not something I think to pray for. I pray for God’s will and to desire it. I’ll pray for self-discipline and to resist temptation. I confess often when I don’t obey but I don’t pray for God to help me walk blamelessly. It feels like we’re so trained to remember we can’t be perfect that striving for blamelessness feels like we’re assuming we can do it on our own and to completion. Though we were justified at salvation, we are being sanctified (or made holy) over time.
- That you will not do anything wrong. (2 Cor. 13:7)
- First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
- Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess 5:23)
6. He prays we would fully know God.
This one is interesting. It’s not just so we know God and it’s not just so we know His plans for our life. It’s because the more we know Him, the more we can endure. The more we know, the more hope we have to keep going. The more we know God, the more we can fix our eyes on eternal things. The more we know Him, the more we can do what He’s called us to do. The more we know Him, the more we can glorify Him!
- God may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. (Ephesians 1)
- That you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge. (Ephesians 3)
- That your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for 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)
- That you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy. (Colossians 1:9-11)
There you have it! 6 things Paul prays for that help to expand my own prayers. Did anything jump out as something that’s not often tended to in prayer? Does it shift things mentally to think of praying like Paul? I don’t think this means we abandon requests at all. I think it does help to expand how we pray for requests quite a bit though!
I pray you were encouraged, friends, as much as I have been reading Paul’s prayers. It’s truly a blessing that we get to read the prayers of others and let them expand our own prayers.
We’d love to make this a series called “How to Pray Like…” Who else would you love to see us feature? Let us know in the comments below!