In our last lesson, we looked at HOW Paul prayed. Now, let's look at WHAT he prayed for.
- He prayed for changed behavior.
First, he prayed for all sinners to become reconciled to Jesus Christ. (II Cor. 5:20;
Rom. 10:1) Salvation is the first behavioral change we should be praying about for others.
But receiving salvation doesn't automatically make us perfect creatures, does it? You only
have to look downs the rows of your church pews to see that--- or better still, look in the mirror! We are raised to a new life, but we have to learn how to leave the old life behind
us--- it isn't automatically erased from our memory! And it's made even harder because our culture continually influences us.
Paul knew this. It was a problem for the new believers in Corinth. Corinth was a Greek city that pursued wealth, pleasure, and instant gratification. Sound familiar? That pretty much
describes our culture today, doesn't it? It's not easy to set aside the self-centered values of our culture. We must pray, as Paul did, for new believers to learn to move away from
quarrelling, envy, gossip, and greed, and move toward the selfless, compassionate love described in I Cor. 13.
- Paul prayed for new believers to have knowledge of the truth.
In Phil.1:9, Paul wrote:
"And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment."
Paul knew that new Christians have a lot to learn!. They need to get to know God: how He acts and what He thinks. The best way to do that
is to study His Holy Word.
There are many, many teachings, not all are reliable. It's easy for new believers to become
discouraged or confused by all the false teachings out there that misinterpret or add to the Scriptures. This is what happened to the new young Christians in Galatia. So called
"religious experts" had led them to believe they had to obey certain rules in order to be correct.
We need to pray, as Paul did, for new believers to not become merely "religious",
but to develop a life-changing relationship with God. Only then can they begin to develop the spiritual fruit Paul describes in Gal. 5.
- Paul prayed for new believers to have an understanding of their new identity in Christ.
The Roman city of Ephesus was a place of great spiritual darkness. All kinds of sorcery
and magic were widely practiced there. That's a lot like our society today---- everywhere you look you see physic readers and spirtual advisors, physic hotlines, and ones who claim
to be able to tell the future through astrology, tarot cards, or palm reading.
Paul knew that the world would confuse and confound those seeking to find understanding and meaning in
their life. Paul prayed in Eph. 1:18-19 that new believers would have their spiritual eyes opened to comprehend the POWER OF GOD available to them: the very same power that
raised Jesus from the dead!!!!
"And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in
Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places."
That's really a lot to take in! We must pray, as Paul did in Eph. 3:17, for new believers to become firmly "rooted and established" in faith, until they see God works in ways beyond
belief! When they begin to comprhend the greatness of God, and the depth of His love, His grace, and His mercy, then they can begin to understand who they are and the plans God has
for their life. They will become His agents in this world of spiritual darkness.
- Paul prayed for them to mature as Chrstians.
He thanked God every time he thought of the Philippian believers, because he saw signs of God at work in them. In Phil 1:6, he prayed that this work in them would continue:
"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."
That's how we can pray, as well. God doesn't intend for us to remain baby Christians all our lives. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth:
"I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able."
We begin as baby Christians, but we certainly shouldn't stay that way! We should pray, as Paul did, that we should all learn to mature in Christ.
When we ask God to work in someone's life, or in our own life, we need to recognize that this will require that we learn to obey. We all know, obedience and submission do not
come easily! Most of us can attest to that! But obedience and submission are both necessary if we are to go where God leads us and do His will. Only then is God's will accomplished
and He gets the glory!
- Pray for Christ's Lordship.
Salvation is merely the beginning of our Christian walk. God saves us, but He doesn't
want to be just a rescuer; He wants to be our Master! Paul had never met the Colossian believers personally, but he thanked God for their reputation as maturing believers. In
Col. 1:9-10, Paul prayed;
"For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of
his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of
In other words, he prayed for them to let Christ be their Master in all ways! That's how we should pray, as well. We can pray that as new believers come to understand that
Christ is the head of the body, other relationships will also fall into place.
- Finally, pray for endurance and encouragement..
At first it may be a surprise to a young believer to learn that Christians are NOT guaranteed smooth sailing through life. In fact, there are a lot of movements out there
right now preaching these "prosperity" promises under their "name it & claim it" religion. They teach that this means physical, worldly things: new house, money in the bank, new car,
etc. There are a lot of false teachings and "feel good" messages about how God promises every believer a life of peace, comfort, prosperity and all life's good things.
However, as we study the Bible, we learn that just the opposite is true: In Acts 14:22, Paul wrote ;
"We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God."
I love the subtle differences in the original Greek words, and the word Paul used here means "it is inevitable, it has to be".
Paul also wrote to Timothy, whom he called his beloved son in the faith:
"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall none suffer
persecution." (2 Tim 3:12)
Why is hardship and suffering inevitable for Christians? Because of the of glorious, holy
nature of God and the unholy, hideous nature of sin. The two can never co-exist peacefully, because they are exact opposites. Even in the atmosphere, when a hot air front meets a cold
air front, it forms a tornado! That's why Paul prayed for his friends in Thessalonica to be strengthened and encouraged
"so that no one would be unsettled by these trials" (I Thes. 3:3)
We need to pray, as Paul did, for our young believers to hang in there and keep on doing
what they already know God wants them to do, despite the inevitable hardships and trials that come. Pray for encouragement, strength, perseverance, and peace. Pray that as they
grow in Christ, they will be witnesses to those around them.
As we learn to pray like Paul, we will begin to see things happen around us, just as Paul
did. Remember, prayer is the catalyst that changes things and makes things happen. To see things happen in our homes, in our church, and in our lives and the lives of those
around us, let's all learn to pray as Paul prayed!