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WITH PAUL IN THE SCHOOL OF PRAYER

WITH PAUL IN THE SCHOOL OF PRAYER

810goya “Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ He answered, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ The Lord said to him, ‘Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying.’”
Acts 9:10-11

After his dramatic ‘Road to Damascus’ conversion, the first thing we find Saul (later Paul) of Tarsus doing is praying. It is prayer that marks the life and ministry of this incredible man. Paul began the Christian life with prayer and, according to tradition, laid his neck on a Roman chopping block, praying. “His whole ministry was grounded in, and developed from, prayer. For Paul, the Christian experience was essentially (and overwhelmingly) an act of prayer.” (Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, edited by G. Hawthorne, R. Martin and D. Reid). One cannot read Paul’s letters without seeing the importance that Paul gave to prayer. Again and again we see Paul praying:

  • “For God, whom I served with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers.” (Romans 1:9)
  • “I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.” (Ephesians 1:16)
  • “I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.” (2 Timothy 1:3)

Paul not only shaped his own life by prayer, but urged others to make prayer their life’s priority:

  • “First of all then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings to be made for everyone.” (1 Timothy 2:1)
  • “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2)

Paul’s many prayers scattered throughout his letters provide good models for our praying. Often when my prayer life is dry or I do not know how to pray, I will take up a prayer of Paul. I think that his prayer in Ephesians 3 ranks as one of the greatest prayers. If we were to take up this prayer we would be forever changed!

I encourage you this week to daily read through the prayer (see below), and make it your prayer. As you do, note the four “that”s introducing a request, giving structure to the prayer:

16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)

As we pray such a prayer, we might think we have asked for too much, we have asked too big. But in the next verses, Paul assures us that God can do far more than we could even imagine:

20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

What might God do as you begin praying this for yourself and for others! You can’t even imagine!

Next week, we will take up Paul’s first request. We will explore praying for God to strengthen us in the inner person, providing us with power according to the vast resources of His indwelling Holy Spirit. If we will begin to do this, God will do far more than we even ask!

Grace and peace,
Tim

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