Praying For the Church
John Telgren

I came across this short story that speaks volumes about the attitude we should have when we pray.

Ivan endures all the horrors of a Soviet prison camp. One day he is praying with his eyes closed when a fellow prisoner notices him and says with ridicule, "Prayers won't help you get out of here any faster." Opening his eyes, Ivan answers, "I do not pray to get out of prison but to do the will of God."

Indeed, this seems to be the same attitude Paul had when he was in prison. One of the most joyful letters he wrote was while he was prison. When he wrote to the Phillippians, he wrote,

"Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in {the cause of} Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear (Phil 1:12-14)."

Paul's mission and purpose did not stop simply because he was in prison. He knew that he was a "prisoner of Christ (Eph 4:1)," and a "bond-servant of Christ (Rom 1:1)," and this took precedence over everything else. Paul understood God's purpose for him. He was one of God's "Ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20). If he was in prison, then he was an "ambassador in chains (Eph 6:20)." It made no difference what his circumstance was.

What kept Paul grounded was likely his prayer life. No matter what his circumstances were, he never lost sight of God's purpose for his life. God would use him in any circumstance. In nearly every one of his letters, his greetings are accompanied by prayers which he offers up on behalf of the church. Not only are they prayers, but they also serve as models on how to pray.

Many of us pray due to sickness, hardships, bad weather, etc. It is good and well to pray to God for these things. After all, God is the supreme ruler of the universe. However, if we neglect the types of things Paul prays for, we are missing some of the most important things. Look at what Paul prays for here:

"For this reason also, since the day we heard {of it,} we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please {Him} in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light (Col 1:9-12)."

These are the sorts of things we want to pray for in our own congregation.