How are you praying? (Part 1)

Over the next week or so, I’m going to post some reflections on the prayers of Paul.

From time to time I find myself looking for a method for evaluating and sharpening an area of my spiritual life.

What I am going to do over the next couple of days is revisit some of the prayers of Paul that are recorded for us in the New Testament, and ask myself to what extent the concerns expressed as prayers in his letters find themselves expressed in my prayers for others and myself.

Now I’m not going to suggest that our prayers should only be for those kinds of things that Paul mentions in his prayers, but I do think that if the concerns Paul expressed in prayer are largely absent from our prayers, then that might be a sign that we need to allow God to reorder our priorities.

Before reading on, it might be worthwhile just taking a moment to note the things that you have prayed for in the last week or so as a basis for comparison.

Here is the first prayer. In 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 Paul writes:

To this end we always pray for you, 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. ESV

Without going into this passage in depth, just take a moment to notice what Paul prays for the church in Thessalonica in these verses.

Here are two requests and a reason for the requests. In the first request Paul asks that “our God may make you worthy of his calling.”

Now how can any Christians become worthy of God’s calling?

Paul’s prayer here is for transformation, or more specifically the transforming work of the Spirit of God. How often when we pray for ourselves, or for others, do we pray for Christ-likeness?

Of course such a prayer poses the question about how such transformation takes place. It is certainly not the case that it happens without human effort, but neither does it happen without divine intervention, and so we should pray for it!

The second request is that God may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power.

I have to say that I really like this bit of the prayer. Eugene Peterson paraphrases it like this “pray that he’ll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something.”

I guess I get concerned about Christians who seem to sit around waiting for divine inspiration and never get around to doing anything. Was it Tony Campolo who said that it is a lot easier to steer a moving car?

As someone who loves God, and wants to build his kingdom, but who can’t always claim a prophetic vision about what I should do next I find it encouraging to hear Paul praying these words and to see that right intentioned faith founded ideas and initiatives can be filled with God’s power.

Finally, Paul tells us why he might pray such a prayer; “so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him.”

I find that too many of my prayers are, if I am honest, motivated primarily by my desire for comfort, rather than by a desire for the glory of Jesus.

Is it not the case that our reasons for praying will have implications on the prayers that we pray?

God can be glorified by answering my prayers for comfort, but I notice that Paul is motivated to pray because of he desires that Christ be glorified. Because that is his priority he prays for lives and actions that bring glory to the Lord Jesus.

We should never entertain the devil’s whispers that being concerned for the glory of God will rob us of joy and make us the poorer. I suspect that the “and you in him” is a prayer for the Thessalonians based on the conviction that God will honor those whose primary desire is glorify Jesus.

We will leave it there for today. I’ll try and get the next post up on Monday if time allows.

Why not take a moment to use the questions below to evaluate your own prayers in the light of this prayer.

As I said, some time ago I preached through the Prayers of Paul, and at that time I found Don Carson’s A call to spiritual reformation really helpful, and would highly recommend it to those who want to think about such things more deeply.

For reflection:

  • How often do we ask God for the transforming work of the Spirit in our lives in order that we might be found more and more in the image of Christ?
  • How often do I pray for myself and others that God’s power would be present in thoughts and actions?
  • What is my motivation for prayer? How concerned am I for the glory of God?

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