If you were to call the office Thursday afternoon, you might hear a message letting you know that our offices are closed for staff prayer time. Though the message is new, the practice is not—we’ve been gathering weekly to pray for each other, the world, and our partners for years. We take this task and time very seriously! Whenever one of you sends us a prayer request, we add it to the list and pray for it that very week. We also pray for you when we don’t have specific things, knowing that we have a great responsibility and joy to lift up our brothers and sisters, even without knowing what exactly is on your heart.
The Apostle Paul provides us clear examples of this practice. In his ministry, he would go to a city, plant a church, nurture the church awhile, and then leave. He once knew the church’s needs backward and forward, but moving on meant that daily relationship disappeared and he was left only with whatever slow-moving messages the church could send. And yet the letters Paul wrote back to them are full of fellowship: his joy at hearing good news of their faithfulness, his encouragement for their trials, and, most of all, his prayers. Even though he isn’t with them anymore, Paul assures the church that he continues to pray for them.
How does Paul pray without knowing what exactly his friends are dealing with? Some might call his prayers “general,” but listen to just a few:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him[.] (Ephesians 1:16-17)
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
I could go on; Paul’s prayers teach sermons in themselves. Even in this small sample, however, Paul makes his prayer priorities evident. He prays that the Spirit will give the churches power and wisdom and knowledge of God; that they will be filled with joy and peace and love; that they will be sanctified, pure and blameless; that their lives will glorify and praise God.
And, in truth, doesn’t this cover all the bases?
Whatever issue you’re going through, whatever weighs on your heart or lifts it up, whatever lack you feel, Paul’s prayers direct you back to the only answer. Knowing God gives wisdom, hope, joy, peace, righteousness, and everything else necessary. Paul literally cannot ask for anything better for the churches he loves—even those he’s never been to!—and neither can we.
Of course, if you want to send us a specific prayer request, we would be delighted to pray for you in that. Paul asks the churches to pray for him about specific things as well, and we know our Father delights when his children seek him in every part of their lives. But do know that we are always praying for you, as Paul did, that “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14)