How Do You Pray for Fellow Believers?

PrayingHands2There is a strange phenomena in the church when it comes to praying for people.  Obviously this is a generalisation, but I have observed it enough to suggest that it may be a pattern.

When people become followers of Jesus our prayers for them seem to change.  Before they are saved we pray for God to work in their lives and circumstances, for their hearts to be drawn to Christ, for the spiritual blindness to be taken away, etc.  Once they trust Christ and are in the family, then what do we pray for? Often it seems to shift to the more mundane matters of health and career.

This is not just the case in church prayer meetings, but also among leaders too.  I know that I am tempted to pray more fervently and more “spiritually” for those who are outside God’s family, or for those who are on the fringes.  But for those who seem to be doing well in human terms?  It is tempting to assume all is well.

Take a look at Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians in 1:15-23.  He begins by referencing how thankful he is for their faith in Christ and love for the saints.  These are healthy believers – they have a vertical relationship that is spilling into their horizontal relationships.  These are the kind of people I am tempted to bypass as I pray.  Not so for Paul!

The One Thing – He goes on to make clear the one thing that he prays for them: that the Father might give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him!  That is, Paul prays for these believers to know God.  Simple.  Or is it profound?

Clearly he doesn’t mean that he wants them to “come to know” God, but to grow in their knowing Him.  He wants their relationship with God to go deeper, that the union they have with Christ should become more vibrant and developed.  (Remember that “in Christ” occurs almost forty times in Ephesians – union with Christ is a massive theme in the letter.)

I suspect many of us who have a passion to see the lost brought to salvation may fall into the trap of then missing the growth potential that exists for a believer.  There is so much more than just getting saved and then telling others, there is massive potential for spiritual growth and maturity.

The Three Things – Paul spells out this one prayer request with three specifics.  He wants God to enlighten the eyes of their hearts to know three things.

First, he wants them to know the absolute certainty of their calling in Christ.  We have churches filled with people who carry the label of Christian, and yet have all manner of uncertainty and confusion over God’s calling on their lives.

Second, he wants them to know that they are God’s inheritance – an inheritance He considers to be gloriously rich!  This is not something new believers readily grasp.  Just as it takes a wife many years to truly believe that her husband really loves her, so it is with God’s people.

Third, he wants them to know how much power there is toward them as they trust God for it.  That is, is there enough power for a life like mine to be truly transformed by the gospel?  Is there enough power for me to be raised from my sinful state of death to do the works God has prepared for me to do?  There is if that power is the same power that raised Christ from the dead, seated him in glory, put all enemies under his feet and made him head over the church!

Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is incredibly encouraging for us to read.  More than that, it is deeply challenging to recognize that this prayer was prayed for those who were already faithful and loving.  Let’s not bypass those that seem healthy and established in our churches and in our ministry spheres.  Let’s pray for them, and for ourselves too, to be growing in our relationship with God, knowing more profoundly the reality of our hope, his inheritance and the abundance of power available!

Book Review: How to Like Paul Again, by Conrad Gempf

41eLcj9NQOLThe front cover of this book (published by Authentic, 2013) has a snippet of an endorsement that states, “The best thing on Paul written for non-academics I have ever read.”  I agree, although I can’t list a whole lot of other books on Paul written for non-academics, to be honest.

Gempf is engaging and witty, his style draws you in and keeps you hooked.  His concern is that Paul has gotten a bad rap and so people judge him without knowing him.  I don’t have a negative view of Paul at all, but by the end of this book I liked him and his letters even more than when I started.

This book is like a crash course in hermeneutics, but a genuinely enjoyable course . . . the kind taught by a master teacher who so captures your attention that you don’t realise it is a course in hermeneutics.  Each chapter builds on what has gone before and Gempf seems to enjoy a Paul-like rhetorical conversation with his readers.

His method is to select three epistles and work with each one for a few chapters.  He starts with Galatians, then moves onto 1 Corinthians.  He contrasts the two.  Different audiences, different letters.  A church in need of 1 Corinthians could be harmed by a slap-dash misapplication of Galatians, and vice versa.  I loved the letter to the Galatians from the other side – a helpful feature of a section that gives a clear sense of the danger churches today face in respect to the Law and Christian spirituality.

Throughout the author is convincing the reader of the importance of understanding what it meant back then before pondering what it might mean for us today.  A wonderful dose of healthy hermeneutical teaching in a book that reads more like a good novel or biography than a biblical studies text book.

After Galatians and 1 Corinthians, I did put the book down.  Busy schedule and a family Christmas.  And, to be honest, I thought Philemon might be a weak end to a great book.  I was wrong.  Philemon was a great place to add another set of dimensions to Paul and his apostolic writing.

This is a great book for new Christians and long-term preachers alike.  Maybe you went to Bible school and have preached through Paul’s letters many times.  I still think you should read this book.  It is refreshing and it will stir your appreciation for the epistles again.

Perhaps your Christmas presents were wonderful, but lacked a gripping book.  Why not buy yourself a late gift.  In fact, buy two or three because you will be thinking of people to whom you must give a copy.  Thanks Conrad, a wonderful book!

To order this book in the UK, click here.