If our prayers reveal our hearts, our desires, than mine demonstrate that I’ve become overly entangled in today. Or perhaps more accurately, that I frequently lose sight of eternity. I ask God to alleviate my friends’ and loved ones’ pain, to protect them from harm, and to pour His blessings upon them. And while there’s nothing wrong with those requests––God wants us to bring all our needs before Him––He invites all of us to go deeper.
Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the prayers of Paul, recorded in his letters to ancient believers. He was perhaps the most effective missionary and church planter in the history of christendom. He was a man of action, but he was also a man of prayer. Of powerful, soul-stirring, life-changing prayer.
Here’s what I find significant. The people Paul prayed for were experiencing intense persecution. Deep pain. Most likely fierce fear. They were losing jobs, their homes, and for some, their lives.
So, how did Paul pray for them? Did he ask God to keep them safe? To alleviate their suffering?
Perhaps, but those aren’t the requests that were recorded and preserved for all time. Instead, we see a man completely focused on Christ and His mission––His mission for the world, and for every person Paul encountered.
To the Colossians, he wrote, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because … of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people …” (Col. 1:3-6, NIV).
He thanked God for their faith and the fruit it bore.
To the Thessalonians he wrote, “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes. 1:2-3).
Again, he thanked God for their faith and the fruit it bore, and the endurance Christ had given them.
To the Philippians he wrote, “… In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:3-6, NIV).
Do you see the pattern?
I’m sure Paul felt the same concern for his brothers and sister in Christ that you and I share for our loved ones. While I imagine he prayed for their welfare and provision, he remained focused on their growth in Christ.
He understood, in a way my mama’s heart easily forgets, that God had called each of those ancient believers to something glorious, something eternal. To become like Christ and live for Him.
I want to do the same.
This doesn’t mean I’ll stop asking God to protect, bless, and provide for my friends and family. But it does inspire me to expand my view so that I may begin to see them and their situation through His eyes, through the lens of eternity.
Yes, I want God to care for my loved ones today. But even more, I want Him to grow their faith, change and strengthen their hearts, and empower them to change their world.
Let’s talk about this! How often do you pray for your loved one’s spiritual growth? Who might God be calling you to pray for today?