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Paul's Prayer Pattern

By: Paul Sadler

Note: This article originally appeared in the June 2010 edition of the Berean Searchlight.

Ephesians 1:15-16

Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, [16] Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;

The Book of Ephesians has been called the Alps of the Pauline Epistles. It brings us to the very pinnacle of Body truth, where the teachings of Grace can be viewed in their fullest sense. In Ephesians, Paul uses very specific terminology and phraseology that only pertains to us. Here we learn about "the Mystery" and "the unsearchable riches of Christ." It is in this writing that the apostle introduces us to the truth that there is "one baptism" today.

Of course, we're well aware that there are some these days who have eliminated these terms and phrases from their ministries hoping to appeal to a wider audience. But in so doing, they are depriving the Lord's people of the distinctive character of Paul's apostleship and message. Paul experienced this same thing in his day, which prompted him to declare boldly these words to Timothy and those who ministered with him:

2 Timothy 1:8

Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;

We want to challenge all those within the sound of these words not to be ashamed of the Lord's heavenly ministry or His divinely appointed apostle, the Apostle Paul. May we encourage you to stand fast in the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the Mystery. Paul calls it "that precious deposit," which has been committed to us by God to make known and defend. May we never be of that number who apologize for it or diminish it in any way. Why? Because it is God's special revelation for the Church today! It's the counsel of His will! Shall we apologize for the will of God? May the thought be far from us!

As we consider the pattern of Paul's prayer life, we are going to be touching on some very important distinctions that matter, distinctions which are uniquely Pauline.

Patterns

1 Timothy 1:15-16

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. [16] Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.

We have all worked with a pattern at one time or another in our lives. A pattern is a desired design that is followed to the letter. If a seamstress, for example, is preparing to make five dresses for the bridesmaids of a wedding party, she begins with a pattern. She wants the bridesmaids' dresses to all have the same cuts and all be the same style.

If you are planning to add a deck onto your house, you start by going down to Home Depot to pick up what is known as a working drawing-- a pattern! It gives you a sketch of the shape and dimensions of the deck that if followed closely, will produce a favorable end result. However, if you ignore the drawings, thinking that you have a better way, well, let's just say you may want to increase the liability insurance on your homeowner's policy!

We learn from the above passage that Paul is a pattern of the longsuffering of God "to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting." Instead of raining fire down from heaven on the chief of sinners, which would have been the human response, Christ reached down and saved the leader of the rebellion. God eliminated His principal enemy by saving him and making him an ally.

Everyone who has been saved since Paul is a demonstration of God's longsuffering. With this in mind, every day is another day of grace! But we are to understand that Paul is not only a pattern in this manner, he also serves as our example in every area of the Christian life. This is why we are to follow him, as he followed Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). We then are to order our prayer life after him.

Paul's Prayer Life

1 Timothy 2:1-4

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; [2] For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. [3] For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; [4] Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

When Paul states we are to pray for kings and those in authority, he is speaking about the unsaved. In the apostle's day, King Herod and the Emperor Nero, both of whom reigned supreme in the affairs of men, would be prime examples. We are to pray that those who rule over us might rule with authority, but not be a tyrant or oppressive like Herod and Nero. This would allow the gospel to go forth unhindered, while at the same time allowing believers to lead a "quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty."

"Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." The term "will" used here by Paul is the Greek verb thelo which ahs the idea of "desire." it is essential to understand God has not willed all men to be saved or that all men will come to a knowledge of the truth. If this were the case then all men would be saved and all would know the truth. Rather, it is God's "desire" that all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. This strikes a perfect balance between the sovereignty of God in giving these opportunities and human responsibility that men need to respond to them.

Since it is God's desire to have all men saved, we are to pray that lost souls will come under the sound of the gospel that they might be convicted of their sins. As we know, "faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God." We are not only to pray for the souls of men, but we also have a responsibility to put feet to our prayers and tell men God loves them and Christ died for their sins. Whether this takes the form of personally sharing Christ with someone or placing a tract in the hand of the lost, we are not to sit idly by while men go off into a Christless eternity.

It is also God's desire that we come to a knowledge of the truth after we trust Christ. The truth God would have us come to see today is the revelation of the Mystery (Romans 16:25). For those who are diligently searching for God's will, they need look no further than Paul's epistles. While prophecy progressively unfolds the searchable riches of Christ, the Mystery reveals the unsearchable riches of Christ which were kept secret from ages and generations past. What was once kept secret by God is now fully revealed for us in Paul's epistles.

The Nature of Our Prayers

Ephesians 1:15-16

Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, [16] Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;

Prayer is communication with God. It's the channel through which the finite has access to the infinite. Having been accepted in the Beloved, we have access to talk to God at any time. We usually think of prayer in the context of kneeling beside a bed, which, of course, is a good place to begin. If we follow Paul as our pattern, we learn that he prayed without ceasing. But where did Paul find all the time to pray?

We know that when the apostle came to Corinth he supported himself by making tents. Since he instructs us to continue in prayer, to persevere in prayer, and to pray without ceasing, we can safely conclude that Paul was lifting his heart before the throne of Grace as he stitched together the tents he was making. As traveled the hundred miles or so from Philippi to Thessalonica, he prayed along the way. In view of the fact that we have an intimate relationship with Christ, God would have us to talk to Him throughout the day, just as a husband carries on a conversation with his wife. They are in constant communication with one another, as we should be with our heavenly Father.

As Paul communicated with the Lord, his prayers were filled with thanksgiving. Elisabeth Elliot once said "Thanksgiving requires the recognition of the Source." Therefore, the apostle never ceased to give thanks to God for the saints at Ephesus after he learned of their faith and love for the saints. He had personally lead many of them to the Lord, and now as a part of his follow-up ministry to them, he prayed God would increase their understanding in spiritual things to the praise of His glory.

I want to pause here for a moment to point out something that has often given the wrong impression when we come together in prayer. Having conducted and attended numerous prayer meetings over the years, I've observed that a new believer could easily draw the conclusion that we only pray when things go wrong! Now please don't misunderstand me, we should offer intercessory prayer for those who are suffering through an affliction or those who may be dealing with a family crisis, but we should not limit ourselves only to praying for others. Our prayer life should, first and foremost, be filled with praise and thanksgiving to God for Who He is and what He has accomplished for us as Calvary. We need to remember and remember well that he is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. He merely spoke and worlds came into being, both visible and invisible. We need to praise Him for His infinite greatness!

Paul instructs us to always persevere in prayer (Ephesians 6:18) for this reason: Have you ever noticed that, when you're in prayer, your mind tends to wander? Seeing that Paul makes reference to perseverance in the context of our spiritual warfare, distraction is one of the enemy's ways to keep us from the throne of Grace. No sooner do you begin to pray than the thought crosses your mind, "I forgot to put the monthly mortgage payment in the mail this morning." Before it slips your mind again you jump up to run to the post office, but in so doing, you fail to return to the Lord in prayer. Or perhaps you just remembered that you forgot to file your taxes-- "oh my, it's April 16th!" Satan's distractions are very effective in keeping us from seeking the face of God.

What Should We Pray About?

Everything!

1 Thessalonians 5:18

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Ephesians 5:20

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

Philippians 4:6

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

As we have seen, Paul prayed for earthly rulers that those of the household of faith might lead quiet and peaceable lives, but he also prayed about physical infirmities. Paul sought the Lord, not once, but three times that He might heal him from his eye affliction. In response to the prayers of the saints, when Epaphroditus was sick and near death, God had mercy on him and raised him up so he could continue in the work of the ministry. In so doing, God also showed mercy to Paul, seeing that Epaphroditus was so instrumental in helping him during his incarceration.

Furthermore, Paul was convinced that he would be released from prison as a result of the prayers of the saints at Philippi, and indeed he was set free by Rome in answer to their petition. This enabled him to continue his itinerant ministry among the Gentiles, traveling from city to city, preaching the gospel of the grace of God. Here, too, Paul often lifted his heart in prayer to God, requesting that he might have a safe and successful journey (Romans 1:9-10).

As you can clearly see, a strong case can be made from both Paul's early and latter epistles regarding praying about physical things. If we are going to follow Paul consistently as he followed Christ, we too should pray about everything, including giving thanks at meals (1 Timothy 4:4-5). It has been correctly said, "Ingratitude if one of our great sins."

The Primary Focus of Our Prayer Life

Ephesians 1:17-18

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: [18] The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,

Woven throughout the tapestry of our prayer life should be our exaltation of the One Who is above all others, in acknowledgment of the great things He has done. To help us more fully understand the significance of the riches of His grace, Paul desired that the saints should be brought into a "knowledge of God." The Greek word the apostle uses here in Verse 17 is epignosis, which signifies "a full knowledge, an experiential knowledge."

For example, when a couple is engaged, they really don't know one another until after they are married and establish a permanent relationship with each other. It's not until they are living together that a new wife discovers that the man she now calls husband is downright miserable in the morning. Of course, when he wakes up at the crack of dawn and looks at his bride, he's trying to figure out who that strange woman is in his bedroom with her hair all over the place. He's never seen her like that before. They are both thinking to themselves, "what else don't I know about this person?"

How do we really get to know someone? We spend time with them. We talk to them to learn their likes and dislikes. Over time we develop a mutual trust for one another, which grows stronger the longer we are in each other's company. The same is true with God. We can know about God by viewing His creation. The very design and complexity of His handiwork not only demonstrate He exists, but they also clearly show His eternal power and Godhead.

But to really know Him personally you must first be saved. This establishes a spiritual relationship with God, a blood relationship based upon the finished work of Christ at the Cross. Then you need to apply these three "T's" to your life. To know Him more intimately you need to spend time with Him. One of the ways to accomplish this is by studying the whole counsel of God, from Genesis to Revelation. You need to talk to him in prayer, not just when you are in trouble, but daily, hourly, moment by moment. As your relationship grows, you will find yourself trusting Him more and more. And you will find Him using you to a greater degree in His service.

Paul prayed that God would give the saints at Ephesus the "spirit of wisdom and revelation." Here Paul speaks of the ministry of the Holy Spirit on our behalf. The wisdom spoken of here is those things that flow from the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2). It is the Spirit of God Who imparts wisdom. He helps us to understand the revelation of God through the process of illumination, so the eyes of our understanding might be opened to that which has been revealed through the ministry of the Apostle Paul.

When Paul makes reference to believers being given "revelation," we are to understand that there are NO special revelations being given today. But we can have a fuller understanding of the revelation that God gave to Paul by studying the Word, rightly divided (Galatians 1:11-12 cf. 2 Timothy 2:15).

Paul's Three Prayer Requests

Ephesians 1:18-19

The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, [19] And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,

It was Paul's prayer that we might know "what is the hope of His calling." When we rightly divide the Word of truth we learn that we have a heavenly hope and calling. Only the members of the Body of Christ have a heavenly hope. This is God's calling for us. All the other saints spoken of in the Scriptures have an earthly hope and calling.

Contrary to popular belief, we are not coming back to the earth to reign in the kingdom at Christ's Second Coming. This only serves to confuse the two programs of God. Whatsoever God has separated, let no man join together. Rather, we are listening for the sound of the trump when the dead in Christ will rise first and we who are alive and remain will be caught up to forever be with the Lord. Our hope is the Rapture! If this isn't your hope, then someone has misled you!

It was also Paul's prayer before God that we understand "what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints" is. If we compare Ephesians 1:11 with 1:18, we are to distinguish between our inheritance and His inheritance. Our inheritance, as we have seen, is heavenly in nature, which includes being blessed with all spiritual blessings and being seated with Christ in glory.

His inheritance is the true Church. Christ will ultimately be glorified in us, the members of His Body. When all things are summed up in Christ, He will be admired in His saints, similar to an artist who is admired for his work. The angles who sought to understand the manifold wisdom of God will be in awe of Him when He presents the church to Himself without spot or blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27). In eternity, the prophetic saints will glorify Him when they witness the completion of His secret purpose regarding the Church. They will bow in humble adoration and acknowledge, "how unreachable are His judgments and His ways are past finding out."

Finally, the apostle prayed that we might fully comprehend, "what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe." In the Old Testament when God wanted to demonstrate His power, He pointed back to His parting the Red Sea. It gave the Lord's people confidence and courage in time past. In the New Testament, God points us to the resurrection of His dear Son. We personally believe that this is the greatest display of God's almighty power.

When Christ died and was placed in the tomb, all the powers-that-be were intent on keeping Him there-- the power of darkness, the power of sin, the power of death, and the prince of power of the air. It is important to remember that when Christ died for the sins of the world, He died the death of deaths.

Interestingly, God does not point us back to creation to demonstrate His power, when He spoke and worlds came into being. He doesn't point to the planet Jupiter, which He created one hundred times larger than the earth. Instead He points us to the resurrection of Christ, whom He raised from the dead. When you think about it, this was a major achievement. Have you ever noticed that most cemeteries are enclosed with iron fences? I guess it's because everyone's dying to get in, because no one leaves once they enter. Christ was the first to conquer death and rise again forevermore. Only He has a glorified resurrected body, which is the guarantee of our future resurrection (1 Timothy 6:16).

Paul says that the exceeding greatness of His power was "to us-ward." in other words, this same power is freely offered to us. We experienced it at the time of our conversion. It is at our disposal daily to overcome temptation, and to reckon ourselves dead to sin. That's power!

Ephesians 3:20-21

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, [21] Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.




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