The Prayerful Apostle
“…I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” (Ephesians 1:16)
Bible Reading: Ephesians 1:15-23
The opening doxology complete, Paul returns to the more common pattern of his letters and shares his prayer burden for his readers.
Whenever he does this, it is usual for him to tell his readers how he thanks God for them. Here he writes, “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in all my prayers” (Ephesians 1:15, 16).
Paul recognised faith in the Lord Jesus and love for other Christians as twin marks of true belief. When he saw or heard of these things, there he saw evidence of the grace of God in lives, and he consequently thanked God for it. Sometimes he added hope (for example, in 1 Thessalonians 1:3), another mark of God’s empowering presence, especially in situations where believers were suffering for their faith.
This was not something Paul did just once, perhaps when he received a report of the faith and love of a particular group of Christians. Rather, he says that he did this without ceasing. Thanks for believers as they came to mind was a staple feature of his prayers. We read of his constancy in thanking God for other groups of Christians as well (Romans 1:9, 10; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Philippians 1:4; Colossians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:3; Philemon 4).
His faithfulness in doing this shames our fitfulness. I confess to finding it difficult to engage repeatedly in prayer for other groups of Christians. In contrast to Paul, my prayers tend to be unhealthily focused on my small world. This is not something that I am proud of and I wish for a more disciplined spirit when it comes to interceding for others.
Even as I write, a conversation from earlier in the day is ringing in my ears. Visiting friends spoke of how their prayer list for sick relatives and acquaintances keeps growing. They have made a point of making a list of those dear to them known to be suffering serious illness – in most cases, some form of cancer. They regularly pray for these people and add others to their list as they learn of them.
Early last month as I was preparing a series of devotional studies based on the life of the Chinese evangelist John Sung to share at a pastors and wives retreat, I learned that this amazingly active man rose at 4 am or 5 am each day to pray. His prayer life was disciplined and his intercession was “amazingly systematic.” He would work through lists of converts who were brought back to mind by accompanying photographs.
We do well to follow the example of Paul and others like him who are great intercessors. Spiritual power is inseparably connected with intercessory prayer. Our families, churches, communities and even countries would benefit enormously from faithful people who were systematic in their praying.
- Do you find intercessory prayer difficult to sustain?
- How helpful are prayer lists in your efforts to pray regularly for others?
– Andrew Young